Living-Donor Liver Transplant

Transplant

New Patient Appointment or 214-645-1919

Liver transplantation is a life-saving procedure for patients with end-stage liver disease. 

There continues to be a critical shortage of deceased donor livers. In the United States, there are currently more than 13,000 patients waiting to receive a liver transplant. Approximately 7,000 patients receive a liver transplant every year but nearly 1,500 patients die each year on the waiting list while waiting for an organ.

What Is a Living-Donor Liver Transplant?

During living-donor liver transplantation, part of the liver is removed from a healthy adult (the donor) and transplanted into the patient (the recipient) after the diseased liver has been removed. This procedure is possible because of the liver’s remarkable capacity to regenerate – the liver segments in both the donor and recipient grow back to full size within a few weeks. UT Southwestern Medical Center's Living-Donor Liver Transplant Program offers patients a life-saving option, while protecting the safety, health, and interests of donors. 

Who Can Receive a Living-Donor Liver Transplant?

Any patient who is on the liver transplant waiting list is eligible to be considered to receive a liver from a live donor. 

Who Can Donate a Liver?

The decision to donate must be voluntary and free from all coercion and financial compensation. Donors may withdraw from the evaluation process at any time without any repercussions. A person’s decision to opt out of donating a portion of his or her liver for any reason is private and kept confidential.

A healthy donor must:

  • Have a compatible blood type with the recipient
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 60
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Have an emotional relationship with the recipient
  • Have a BMI of less than 35
  • Have health insurance
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Why Choose UTSW for Living-Donor Liver Transplant?

When it comes to liver transplantation, UT Southwestern offers the expertise, experience, processes, and infrastructure necessary for exceptional patient outcomes. We have a dedicated team for living-donor liver transplant, and we are available to answer all questions. Steven Hanish, M.D., is the Surgical Director of Living Liver Transplantation, and Arjmand Mufti, M.D., is the program’s Medical Director. Our intake coordinator Helen Bankston, RN, is available to answer questions 24/7 at 877-392-1528.

(Pictured right: Dr. Steven Hanish and Dr. Arjmand Mufti)

What Are the Benefits of Living-Donor Liver Transplantation?

Recipient Benefits

  • Decreased waiting time for liver transplantation and prevention of adverse outcomes, including death while on the national deceased-donor waiting list 
  • Surgery can be scheduled at the optimal time for the recipient and donor
  • Patients know the quality of the donor liver 
  • Excellent outcomes that are better than for patients who receive deceased-donor transplants

Donor Benefits

  • Donors have the knowledge that they have saved the life of the recipient

What Are the Risks of Surgery for the Donor?

Surgery of any type is associated with risks. Major complications are rare with living donation, but all risks of the surgery will be discussed with the donor by the transplant surgeon during the evaluation process. 

Who Pays for the Costs of Living Donation?

The liver recipient’s health insurance typically pays for the donor’s health care expenses, including doctors’ fees, hospital costs, and post-surgical follow-up visits. Costs such as lost income, travel, lodging, and other related expenses are usually not covered by insurance or the hospital. 

The Evaluation Process

At UT Southwestern, the paramount goal during the evaluation process is to protect the donor’s health and well-being. 

The evaluation process takes place in three stages:

Stage 1 – Screening of potential living donor candidates 

  • All liver transplant candidates are educated about the role of living-donor liver transplantation
  • Recipients identify potential donors who contact UT Southwestern expressing an interest in being a living donor
  • A Living-Donor Health History Questionnaire is completed by the potential donor

Stage 2 – Evaluation Day

  • Consultation with the living-donor transplant team, including transplant surgeon, transplant hepatologist, social worker, and psychiatrist
  • Meeting with independent living-donor advocate 
  • Blood tests/electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram/liver imaging including MRI/CT scan performed
  • Education session about living donor transplantation

Stage 3 – Scheduling date of surgery

  • If the living donor is approved, the transplant team will work to select a suitable date for surgery

Living-Donor Liver Transplant Surgery 

The operation takes between 6 and 8 hours. The recipient and donor are in two adjoining operating rooms at the same time with two separate teams of surgeons operating simultaneously. The donor is closely monitored in the surgical ICU by specialized nursing and medical staff for the first 24 hours after surgery. The following day, the donor is transferred to the transplant floor and cared for by nurses and the transplant team with expertise in looking after living donors. The total expected inpatient stay is approximately 5 days. 

Following discharge from the hospital, donors recover at home. Recovery rates vary between individuals, but most return to work within eight weeks of surgery. 

Donors are monitored closely in the outpatient clinic and are seen at:

  • 7–14 days post-donation 
  • 30 days
  • 90 days
  • 6 months
  • Annually for at least two years

Ask If Living-Donor Liver Transplant Is an Option

If a patient is interested in a living-donor liver transplant, please ask a UT Southwestern physician for more information. 

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