In an ideal world all patients with end stage liver disease would be able to receive a liver transplant from a deceased donor. However, there are currently only enough organs from deceased donors available for approximately one-third of the more than 17,000 people on the national liver transplant waiting list. Unfortunately, approximately 20 percent on that waiting list die each year without being transplanted. The scarcity of donors has imposed the need for medical professionals to explore what would be otherwise considered extreme solutions to terminal cases of liver failure: living donor liver transplant (LDLT). Live donor liver transplantation is made possible by the fact that the liver, unique among organs in humans, will regenerate. This means that when part of a liver is taken from a live donor for transplantation, the segment that remains in the donor will regenerate to its original size while the segment transplanted into the recipient will regenerate to a size determined by the recipient's body type. Although LDLT will not replace traditional cadaveric transplantation, it may offer the possibility of liver transplantation to an additional 20 to 40 percent of patients on the UNOS waiting list. The immediate benefit of LDLT is twofold. First, because LDLT is an elective procedure performed when the recipient is in the "best" condition, he or she avoids the continued physical deterioration that inevitably occurs while waiting for a suitable liver replacement. Secondly, by avoiding the use of a cadaveric liver, LDLT helps to shorten the UNOS waiting list and allow another patient on that list to benefit from transplantation
The first LDLT was performed in 1989 and involved a parent donating a segment of liver to their child. The more technically demanding surgery that allowed a larger portion of the liver to be obtained from a donor and transplanted successfully into an adult developed over the next 10 years. The transplant team at Lahey Clinic first began offering live donor adult liver transplantation (LDALT) in 1999 to select patients on our waiting list, and performed the first such procedure in all of New England. Now, our LDALT program is the largest in the United States, having saved more than 200 lives to date.
For further information on live donor adult liver transplants, please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions page. Patient testimonials and an educational video are also available. Learn how to qualify as a live liver donor.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Awards Lahey Clinic the Silver1 Medal of Honor for Organ Donation.