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Living-Donor Liver Transplant: Frequently Asked Questions

Living-Donor Liver Transplant: Frequently Asked Questions

With close to 14,000 people on the liver transplant waiting list, the wait for a transplant may take years. Despite increased awareness of organ donation and the pressing need for donors, people with end-stage liver disease continue to die while on the waiting list because an appropriate match wasn’t found in time. As a result,

With close to 14,000 people on the liver transplant waiting list, the wait for a transplant may take years. Despite increased awareness of organ donation and the pressing need for donors, people with end-stage liver disease continue to die while on the waiting list because an appropriate match wasn’t found in time.

As a result, living donation has become a powerful, life-saving option for patients on the waiting list. During a living-donor liver transplant, a portion of a healthy living donor’s liver is removed and used to replace the recipient’s damaged liver. While recovery times varies for each patient, the liver will regenerate in both the donor and the recipient in about three months.

However, for patients on the waiting list and potential donors, living donation may seem overwhelming and many patients have questions about the process before getting started.

For the Living-Donor Liver Transplant Recipient:

How do I know if I am eligible to receive a liver transplant?

Patients with end-stage liver disease, who no longer see results with medical therapy, may be eligible for a liver transplant. Candidates for a liver transplant will undergo an extensive pre-transplant evaluation to ensure that a liver transplant is the appropriate treatment for them.

What are the benefits of a living donor transplant?

Living-donor liver transplants offer many life-saving advantages for patients with end-stage liver disease including:

• Reduced time spent on the liver transplant waiting list
• Improved outcomes compared to deceased-donor liver transplants
• Quicker recovery time

How do I find a living donor?

Identifying a suitable living donor is often the most challenging part of the living donor transplant process. While living donors do not have to be related, the donor is often someone that the patient already knows. To find a living donor, people should start by simply sharing their story and raising awareness of their need for a transplant. Donors are often found through:

• Social Media
• Word-of-mouth
• Social settings such as school, work, and church organizations

For the Living Donor:

Who can be a living donor?

Donor safety is very important, so potential donors are carefully evaluated to make sure it’s safe for them to donate and to confirm they are the best medical match for the recipient. A potential donor must:

• Be between the ages of 18 to 54
• Have a BMI less than or equal to 32
• Not engage in ongoing drug or substance use
• Be in good general health with no history of HIV, pulmonary hypertension, liver disease (including cirrhosis and hepatitis B or C), active cancers, or other significant diseases involving the lung, heart, or kidney

How much of my liver is removed?

The percentage of the liver that is removed from the donor depends on the age and size of the person receiving the transplant. Typically, with adult-to-adult donation, about 50 to 60 percent of the liver is removed from the donor and transplanted into the recipient. If the recipient of the transplant is a child, about 25 percent of the donor’s liver is removed.
How long does it take for a donor to recover from a transplant?

Once donors are discharged from the hospital, they typically return to their normal daily activities, including showering and getting dressed, within about one week. Most donors can return to work within six to 12 weeks; after three months, donors tend to be back to their pre-donation level of health.

If you have been diagnosed with liver disease or are considering becoming a living donor, visit UPMC.com/LivingDonorLiver to learn more about living donation.

Dr. Ganesh is renowned for her clinical expertise in treating a wide range of patients with liver disease and is committed to raising awareness of living-donor liver transplantation. Her areas of research include evaluating patients with liver disease, assessing their eligibility for living donor surgery, managing patients on the waiting list, and developing disease management protocols in post-liver transplant patients with metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, and systemic hypertension.

Living-Donor Liver Transplant:
Frequently Asked Questions
Swaytha Ganesh, MD
Medical Director, UPMC Living Donor Program

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