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Living Donor Liver Transplantation

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 utilized 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 first started by allowing adults to donate to children. It has since expanded to allow adults to donate to other adults. Technical advances in liver surgery as well as the livers tremendous ability to regenerate itself have made this procedure a lifesaving reality.

What are the benefits of live liver donation?

Benefits of Living Donor Transplantation
Learn More: In this online video seminar, Dr. Benjamin
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 6000 liver transplants are performed each year, at least 1700 patients die each year while on the wait list. Livers are allocated to patients based on how sick they are (their MELD score), with sicker patients having priority. Living donation offers patients the option of transplant prior to getting very sick (regardless of MELD score) and significantly decreasing the time they wait for a liver. It is an elective operation that is planned well in advance and results in a very short cold ischemia time (the time that the liver is without blood and being preserved). Livers from living donors are usually of excellent quality because donors are extensively evaluated prior to donation and are only allowed to donate if they are in very good health. Living donation not only saves the life of the intended recipient but also frees up a liver for a patient on the waiting list without that option.

Can I be a living liver donor?

If a liver transplant candidate is eligible to have a living donor, a family member, relative or close friend can be considered for donation. There are several requirements that must be met to become a living donor. If you meet the criteria below and are interested in becoming a live liver donor, call 410-614-2989.

Criteria for live liver donation:

  • 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)
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Hepatitis
    • Active or chronic infections
    • Active substance abuse

In addition, live liver donors should have a strong support system to rely on for emotional and physical needs during this time.

Finally, all live organ donations must be a completely voluntary decision. 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 makes 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.

Learn more about becoming a living liver donor


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