What is a living donor liver transplantation?

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The number of people awaiting liver transplant has grown dramatically, while the supply of donor livers has not. This has led to longer waiting times, progressive loss of health for those on the waiting lists and an increase in the number of people who die while waiting for a liver transplant. This critical shortage of deceased donor livers for adults has increased the need to consider living donor liver transplantation, where healthy adults can donate a portion of their liver to people needing a liver transplant.

Living donor liver transplants started as a way to cope with a shortage of deceased donor organs. Watch this video featuring liver transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Brown to learn more about this approach to treating liver disease.

Living-donor liver transplantation involves the removal of a portion of the donor's healthy liver for transplantation into a recipient in need. A family member or someone emotionally close to the recipient may volunteer to donate a portion of their healthy liver. This procedure is made possible by the liver's unique ability to regenerate. After transplantation, the partial livers of both the donor and recipient will grow and remodel to form complete organs.
Living donor liver transplantation is the removal of a portion of a healthy living person's liver for transplantation into a recipient in need. This procedure is made possible by the liver's unique ability to regenerate: after about six weeks, the partial liver in both the donor and recipient will grow and remodel to form complete, functioning organs.
Because of the scarcity of donor organs, living donors are an important part of the care we provide. Up to 20% of the liver transplants we perform are from living donors – far greater than the 2% to 5% national average. A healthy family member, spouse, or friend may volunteer to donate a portion of their liver. Up to 60% of an adult liver may be donated to an adult recipient, and up to 20% to 25% may be donated to a child. A dedicated Independent Donor Advocate Team within the Center carefully evaluates potential organ donors and advocates on their behalf to ensure that donation would cause them no harm.

A living donor offers the possibility of earlier transplantation to those in need. Over 18,000 individuals are waiting for liver transplantation, but just over 6,000 deceased donor livers become available each year. Recipients of livers from living donors generally fare better than those who receive livers from deceased donors because they are in optimal health at the time of transplant, and the tissue they receive is usually from a young, healthy donor. By improving access to transplantation, particularly in regions such as New York that have longer waiting lists, living donor liver transplantation may reduce a patient's risk of dying by 20% to 40%.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.