Jefferson University Hospitals

Living Donor Liver Transplant

In the United States, most liver transplants have traditionally occurred with deceased donor organs, with only the sickest patients receiving transplants. But for more than 20 years, living donor liver transplants have allowed a person to donate a part of his or her healthy liver.

To date, more than 4,000 living donor liver transplants have been performed in the U.S., according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The donated part of the liver transplanted in the recipient grows to full size within days, weeks or months. At Jefferson, our surgeons are highly experienced in performing living donor liver transplantations.

Jefferson has been designated a Live Donor Liver Transplant Center by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that administers the nation's policies on organ transplantation and procurement. The designation makes Jefferson one of only three adult-to-adult living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) programs in the Delaware Valley.

Jefferson's Liver Transplant Program has a long tradition of outstanding outcomes. We have the longest-running liver transplantation program in the Delaware Valley, not to mention the lowest mortality rate among patients on the recipient waiting list of centers served by the nonprofit Gift of Life Donor Program in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

Jefferson's multidisciplinary team of surgeons, hepatologists, oncologists, radiologists and other specialists will be with you every step of the way to improve your quality of life before and after surgery.

Do You Meet the Requirements for Donating a Liver?

Any member of the family, parent, sibling, child, spouse or a volunteer can donate their liver. Generally, liver donors must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be in excellent health
  • Have a compatible blood type
  • Have a similar body size of the recipient
  • Be a nonsmoker for several weeks before surgery
  • Understand the procedure and its risks

What are Some of the Benefits of a Living Donor Liver Transplant?

While donating a portion of the liver poses risks to the donor, it can enable those in need of transplants to receive new organs much sooner. Earlier transplantation prevents those with liver disease from reaching the point of severe illness. It also makes these individuals stronger candidates for transplant surgery, helping to further improve outcomes. Half of all pediatric liver transplants come from live donors, but more and more adults are now receiving living donor transplants.

What Does a Living Donor Liver Transplant Involve?

If you are interested in becoming a living donor, you will meet with our Liver Transplant Program team for a complete medical evaluation to check for any existing health problems and to ensure that you have a piece of liver that is the right size and shape for the recipient. We may also perform blood tests, a physical exam, radiology exams and/or a liver biopsy.

During the transplant surgery, the donor's liver is split into two parts: one part is removed for the transplant and the remaining liver will begin to heal and grow new tissue. It takes approximately six to eight weeks for the remaining liver to grow back to normal size. The recovery time is typically four weeks.