Liver transplantation has been accepted as a life-saving treatment and standard of care for many forms of end-stage liver disease since the early 1980s. Initially, all liver transplants used deceased donor livers. As the number of patients awaiting transplantation began to increase, it became obvious that the number of deceased donors could not meet the demand for livers across the United States. To meet these demands, living donor liver transplantation was developed and began with adults donating to children. It has since expanded to allow adults to donate to other adults. Technical advances in liver surgery, as well as the liver's tremendous ability to regenerate, have made this procedure a life-saving reality.
What are the benefits of live donor liver transplant?
Learn More: In this online video seminar, Dr. Benjamin
Philosophe discusses living donor transplant benefits
for both the patient and donor.
In the United States, more than 17,500 patients are on the waiting list to receive a liver transplant. Although more than 6,000 liver transplants are performed every year, at least 1,700 patients die each year while on the waiting list. Livers are allocated to patients based on how sick they are (their MELD score), with sicker patients receiving priority. Live donation offers patients the option of transplant before they get very sick (i.e., regardless of MELD score), significantly decreasing the time they wait for a liver. It is an elective operation planned well in advance, and it results in a very short cold ischemia time — the amount time a liver is without blood and is artificially preserved. Livers from live donors are usually of excellent quality because donors are evaluated extensively and only allowed to donate if they are in very good health. Living donation not only saves the life of the recipient; it also frees up a liver for a patient on the waiting list who does not have that option.
Can I be a living donor?
If a liver transplant candidate is eligible to receive from a living donor, then a family member, relative or close friend can be considered for donation. There are several requirements to becoming a living donor. If you meet the criteria below and are interested in living donor liver transplant, call 410-614-2989.
Criteria for live donation of a liver:
- Must be in good physical and mental health
- Must be between the ages of 18 and 60
- Must have a body mass index (BMI) that is less than 35
- Must have a compatible blood type with the recipient
- Must be free from the following:
- Significant organ diseases (i.e., heart disease, kidney disease, etc.)
- Ongoing malignancy (cancer)
- Active or chronic infections
- Active substance abuse
Living donors also need a strong support system to rely on for emotional and physical needs during recovery.
Finally, the donation of any organ by a living person must be completely voluntary. Donors should be free from any pressure or guilt associated with the donation and cannot be paid for their donation. In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act, which made it illegal to buy or sell organs.
Video: Living Donor Transplant Q&A
The Director of Living Donor Transplantation, Nabil Dagher, M.D. discusses living donor liver transplantation surgery details, requirements, risks, recovery, and benefits for both recipients and donors of living liver transplants at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center.