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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 currently are only enough organs from deceased donors available for about one-third of the more than 17,000 people on the national liver transplant waiting list.

But there is an option: live donor liver transplant (LDLT).

How Live Liver Donation Works

Live donor liver transplantation is possible because the liver, unique among organs in humans, will regenerate. This means that when part of a liver is taken from a live liver donor for transplantation, the portion that remains in the donor can regenerate to its original size – and the portion transplanted into the recipient will regenerate to a size that fits the recipient’s body.

Live donor liver transplantation does not replace traditional deceased donor transplantation, but it offers the possibility of transplantation to an additional 20% to 40% of those on the national liver transplant waiting list.

The immediate benefits of LDLT are twofold. First, because Live Donor Liver Transplant is an elective procedure performed when the recipient is in the “best” possible condition, he or she avoids the continued physical deterioration that inevitably occurs while waiting for a suitable liver replacement.

And second, by avoiding the use of a liver from a deceased donor, live donor liver transplantation helps to shorten the UNOS waiting list and allow another patient on that list to benefit from liver transplantation.