It is important that you are aware of both the benefits and risks of live donor liver transplantation [link to Transplantation > Live Donor Liver Transplant page]. The specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you understand more about the procedure.
Giving the Gift of Life
By becoming a live donor, you shorten the time a recipient spends on the liver transplant waiting list [link to Transplantation > Liver Transplant Waiting List page]. You also increase the likelihood of successful transplantation because survival rates are higher when the liver transplant comes from a live donor. Additionally, you help another wait-listed patient because your donation vacates the recipient’s spot on the list for the next person when a deceased liver becomes available.
The liver is the only solid internal organ capable of full regeneration. This means the remaining portion of your liver will grow back after surgery. As little as 30 percent of your liver can regrow to its original volume. After you donate, your liver function returns to normal in two to four weeks, and your liver slowly regrows to nearly its full original volume in about a year.
Low Financial Burden
The entire donation process is typically paid for by the recipient’s insurance company. This includes all pre-transplant evaluations, surgery, in-hospital recovery and follow-up care.
Some qualifying donors can obtain financial assistance from the National Living Donor Assistance Center to help pay for eligible transportation, food and lodging expenses related to the live donor evaluation, surgery and follow-up appointments. Our live donor financial coordinator will provide further information during the donor evaluation.
Time Commitment and Personal Risk
Donating a portion of your liver is an invasive surgery. It takes time and effort to recover. The pre-transplant evaluation is a necessary process that takes you away from other activities. Your hospital stay lasts from four to seven days, but you may not be able to return to work or school for six to 10 weeks after hospital discharge.
Pain is normal after surgery. You will feel discomfort while your incision heals despite your pain medications. You may have fatigue as you recover, but most patients report feeling completely normal after two to three months.
In preparation for liver donation, you may need to make some modifications to your lifestyle. These changes include avoiding recreational drugs, tobacco and alcohol. You cannot drink alcohol for a full year after surgery to allow your liver to recover. You will also be required to visit the hospital and lab repeatedly. You will gradually be able to return to your normal activities as you recover. We recommend not participating in contact sports for at least 10 to 12 weeks after surgery.
Complications can range from mild to severe and are related to the amount of liver tissue removed from the donor.
There is a 10 to 35 percent risk of developing a mild complication, such as an infection following donation. Mild complications are easily treatable within our hospital, and our team closely monitors you to detect them early. Being under anesthesia has its own set of possible complications. Our team of anesthesiologists is present during and after surgery to monitor you.
There is a 10 percent risk of developing a serious complication that would require additional treatment or procedures. At Lahey, you are closely monitored for signs of complications and won’t be discharged until these risks have safely diminished. Serious complications include bleeding or injury to your remaining liver, bile leak or fluid in your abdomen, or a hernia at your incision site. There is a rare but real possibility that a liver donor could have a catastrophic complication resulting in the donor needing a liver transplant or death. This risk is estimated to be between one in 1,000 for left lobe donors and one in 200 for right lobe donors.