For some patients needing a liver transplant, receiving a portion of a liver from a living donor is an ideal option. At Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, our experts perform more than 100 liver transplants each year.

Learn more about how Ohio State is leading the way in organ transplantation!

What is living liver donor transplant?

What is living liver donor transplant?

Living liver donation occurs when a healthy person donates a portion of their liver to a recipient with end-stage liver disease in need of liver transplant. During the liver donation procedure, the recipient’s diseased liver is removed and replaced with a portion of the healthy donor’s liver. The recipient and donor surgeries are carried out at the same time in different operating rooms. Since a healthy person’s liver can grow back, living liver donation is a generous decision some people are willing to make.

Why donate a liver portion?

  • Patients with end-stage liver disease have two options for treatment: a liver transplant from a living donor or a liver transplant from a deceased donor.
  • The demand for organs from deceased donors far exceeds the number available, and demand is steadily increasing. United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization responsible for allocating deceased donor organs for transplant, reports that there are more than 14,000 candidates waiting for a liver transplant. In 2018, only 7,170 livers were transplanted from deceased donors.
  • The wait time for a liver from a deceased donor can be many months to years, depending on the patient’s ranking on the wait list. At any given time, about 70 patients in Ohio State’s transplant program are awaiting a liver transplant – many whose lives could be changed by a living donor. Patients who receive a living donor liver transplant greatly reduce their wait time for transplantation and have more control over when the operation occurs.

Who would be a good living liver donor candidate?

Because of the requirements for living liver donors at Ohio State, only select patients will be able to proceed with a living liver donor transplant. Often individuals interested in donating are family members, but a growing number are friends or co-workers. The decision to become a living donor is a voluntary one, and the donor may change his or her mind at any time during the process. The donor’s decision and reasons are kept confidential.

Living liver donor qualifications:

  • Between the ages of 21 and 55.
  • In good overall physical and mental health within a healthy weight range (not obese).
  • Free from uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
  • No active infectious diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis.
  • No history of cancer.
  • No active drug use.
  • Able to understand the risks and benefits of liver donation and provide consent
Blood type      
Can donate to patients with blood type
A A and AB
B B and AB
O A, B, AB and O

How to be a living liver donor

Khalid Mumtaz, MD, MSc, transplant hepatologist at Ohio State, explains the benefits of live donor transplantation and the requirements to be a living liver donor.

Living donor liver transplant vs. whole liver transplant

What are the differences between a live liver donor transplant and the traditional whole liver transplant? Sylvester Black, MD, PhD, transplant surgeon at Ohio State, explains the difference as well as surgery risks and long-term outcomes for both donors and recipients.

Non-medical risks to know about living liver donation

Learn about the non-medical risks associated with being a living liver donor and available resources to help make an informed decision, as explained by Ohio State transplant social worker, Megan Homsy, LISW-S.

Process to become a living liver donor

Learn about the process and evaluation to become a living liver donor from Ohio State transplant living donor coordinator Robin Petersen-Webster, RN, CCTC.

Preparing for a live donor liver transplant

Learn about the process and evaluation for living liver donor transplantation from Ohio State pre-transplant coordinator Rebecca Kovatch, BSN, RN.

Why have an advocate for living liver donation

Independent living donor advocate Dana Mason, MSW, LSW, explains the importance of having a donor advocate assist you in the decision-making process of becoming a living liver donor.

Patient Success Stories

Patient Success Stories

Brothers share a liver in Ohio State's first LLD transplant

Tynan, age 30, diagnosed with PSC received a portion of his brother Max's liver. The two brothers have always been close, sharing a lot in life, and now, a liver.

Evaluation Process

Living Liver Donor Evaluation Process

Living Liver Donor Evaluation Process

Education an donor screenings are two very important components in the living liver donation process. Living liver donors are advised on surgical, medical, financial and emotional risks. They are also thoroughly evaluated to ensure good health and organ function prior to donation.

Here’s what you can expect during your evaluation process:

  • Blood draw to confirm blood type, tissue compatibility and general health
  • Education session with a transplant surgeon and living donor nurse coordinator
  • Evaluation by a transplant surgeon and hepatologist (liver doctor)
  • Consult with a social worker and an independent living donor advocate
  • Chest X-ray and EKG (tests to determine heart and lung health)
  • Radiology/imaging of the liver
  • Any additional testing as needed

Donation Process

Living Liver Donor Process

Living Liver Donor Process

All donation and transplant surgeries are done at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center by our transplant team. If our transplant team clears you as a donor and your recipient has been identified, the surgery will be scheduled within a few weeks.

Before Donation Surgery

Week Before Surgery

About 10 to 14 days before the surgery date, you and your recipient will have blood drawn for a final testing, as well as HIV and hepatitis testing.

Donation Surgery

Surgery Day (First Day in the Hospital)

The day of your donation surgery you will be asked to check into the hospital, usually in the early morning.

When you arrive at the hospital, you will be admitted into the hospital and taken to the pre-operation area. Once you are comfortable, the doctors and nurses will conduct a final examination. You can expect to have blood drawn and an IV placed in your arm. These final health checks help our transplant staff to know that you are in excellent health for donation. You will meet your surgeon prior to transfer to the operating room. This is also a good time for you to ask any last minute questions and to openly talk about any concerns you may have before surgery.

The donation surgery usually takes four to six hours and is done under general anesthesia. About 55 to 70 percent of your liver will be removed for donation. Your remaining liver will enlarge enough to meet your body’s needs and will grow back (regenerate) to 85 to 90 percent of its original size within two months after surgery. Your gallbladder will also be removed during the surgery.

At the same time your surgeon is removing a portion of your liver, your recipient’s surgeon will be removing their liver. Then a piece of your liver will be surgically implanted into your recipient.

After surgery you will be taken to the surgical recovery room where you can expect to stay for one to two hours. When you wake up, you will have a large incision, approximately eight inches, on your abdomen. To help manage your pain, you will have a self-controlled pain pump.

After your time in the recovery room, you will be taken to the surgical intensive care unit to be monitored closely to ensure you are recovering well, have limited nausea, are able to eat, use the bathroom and pass gas, and are free from infection. Ask us for help when you want to get out of bed, as the surgery and medicines you are given can make you feel less than steady on your feet.

After Donation Surgery

Day After Surgery (Second Day in the Hospital)

The day after surgery, patients are generally taken back to a private room on the transplant unit where family and friends are welcome to visit. The day after surgery, we will encourage you to get out of bed and walk with support around the hospital unit. You will also be asked to practice your coughing and deep breathing to protect your lungs. The road to recovery should be relatively quick, and you will be given pain medicine as needed to relieve any discomfort.

Remainder of Stay (Third Day in the Hospital until Discharge)

Most donors are able to go home five to seven days after surgery. You can expect to have some soreness and discomfort. However, you will not be able to leave the hospital until we are sure it is safe for you to continue your recovery in the comfort of your own home. In some cases, if you live more than two hours from the medical center, you may be required to stay in the area for up to two weeks after your surgery.

It is important to remember that living liver donation is a major surgery and you will need help while you recover at home. Please talk with your support person about your needs. If you have any questions, contact your living donor nurse coordinator at 800-293-8965.

Care After Donation

Care at Home After Surgery

Every person reacts differently to surgery, and while some may be up and about the following week, it may take some a few additional weeks to return to normal routines. Expect to restart all normal activities within eight weeks after surgery. Please do not lift objects over ten pounds for at least eight weeks after surgery to protect your health and prevent wound problems.

During your recovery at home, we encourage you to contact our transplant team if you have questions or concerns about your progress.

After donation surgery, your continued good health is our main concern. It is required that you schedule and keep the follow-up appointments with Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center.

Appointments after surgery will need to be scheduled for one week, three weeks, six weeks, three months, one year and two years post-surgery.

After two years, we encourage you to visit your primary care physician for annual checkups and liver tests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Living Liver Donor Frequently Asked Questions

Living Liver Donor Frequently Asked Questions

Do living donor transplants offer any advantages over deceased donor transplants?

Both living liver and deceased donor liver transplants have about the same first-year success rate of 92 percent. However, there are several benefits to having a living donor:

  • Receiving an organ from a living donor keeps a patient from having a long wait for a deceased donor liver.
  • Preservation time and organ transportation are not factors in living donation. Donor and patient operating rooms are adjacent to each other, and the transplanted liver is working in the recipient soon after it is removed from the donor and implanted.
  • Living donation surgeries can be scheduled in advance, which allows procedures to be performed under the best circumstances for the patient and donor.
  • The entire health history of a living donor is known and verifiable.

Are living donor liver transplants common?

Living liver donors are common, particularly in Canada and Asia. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, we are among a few centers in the United States that accept living liver donors.

Who can be a living liver donor?

To be a donor, you must be in good general health. You must be free from diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, kidney disease and heart disease. Gender and race do not matter. Individuals considered for living donation are typically between the ages of 21 and 55. A matching blood type is a requirement for living liver donation.

What testing will I have to complete?

If you decide to become a donor, the next step will be to confirm your blood type. Once received, we will proceed with any other preliminary tests that need to be completed prior to scheduling your full evaluation.

Your evaluation will include laboratory tests, chest X-ray, EKG, radiology/imaging of the liver and any other testing deemed necessary by our transplant team. Once your evaluation has been reviewed, you will be scheduled for further tests of your liver. If all testing is found to be acceptable, the transplant surgery will then be scheduled.

Are there medications I should be careful about using after donating part of my liver?

You should always check with your doctor before taking medication, including over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Who pays for the donation surgery?

Your evaluation and surgery are paid for by the recipient’s medical insurance. However, some things to consider that are not covered are travel and lodging expenses (if any) and lost wages from work if you do not have ill or vacation time. Some donors may qualify for assistance with travel and lodging. The usual recovery time for a donor is eight weeks.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Generally, donors are in the hospital for five to seven days. Recipients are usually in the hospital for seven to ten days.

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