Living-Liver Donation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Answers to frequently asked questions about living-liver donation.
Who Can Be a Living-Liver Donor?
To become a living donor, you must:
At UPMC, our team of liver transplant experts will evaluate you to ensure that organ donation poses the least possible risk.
Do I Need to be Related to the Person Who Receives My Liver?
While many wish to donate a portion of their liver to a family member, you can donate to an unrelated person such as a friend, coworker, church member, or even a stranger.
What are the Surgical Risks of Donating a Portion of the Liver?
Research has shown little long-term risk or effect on a living-liver donor. Long-term survival rate, quality of life, general health status, and risk for liver disease remain relatively unaffected by living-donation.
However, as with any major surgery, liver donation surgery can include complications such as:
- Heart problems
- Blood clots
Death is very rare, but has occurred in a few cases.
Our experienced living-donor liver transplant team will discuss all potential risks in more detail during your pre-donation evaluation.
» Learn more: Benefits and risks of living-liver donation.
What Does the Pre-Liver-Donation Evaluation Involve?
Before scheduling living-donor liver surgery, you will undergo a thorough pre-liver-donation evaluation to ensure that:
- You have no medical conditions or concerns that would cause special risks during the surgery.
- The transplant recipient is able to benefit from the donated portion of your liver.
During the appointment, you will meet with the living-donor transplant team and have the chance to ask any questions.
Who Pays for Liver Donation Surgery?
During your donation evaluation, a dedicated UPMC transplant credit analyst will financially clear you for living-donor liver surgery.
You will then receive a UPMC living-donor insurance card, which includes information about registration and billing.
How Should I Prepare for Living-Donor Liver Surgery?
Your dedicated living-donor liver transplant nurse coordinator will give you details on how to prepare for your surgery.
In general, we ask all organ donors to take necessary health measures to ensure surgery goes smoothly and to minimize the recipient's risks of rejecting your liver.
- Smoking: If you're a light smoker, please stop smoking at least one month prior to your liver donation surgery. Because smoking can cause additional risks of the surgery, people who smoke heavily do not make ideal organ donor candidates.
- Alcohol and medications: Prior to surgery, you must be sober of drugs and alcohol. We also ask that you inform your living-donor transplant nurse coordinator of any medications that you take.
- Oral contraceptives: Donors should stop oral contraceptives around four weeks prior to liver donation to prevent blood clots after surgery. We strongly advise you to use alternative forms of birth control during this time.
What Happens on the Day of Liver Surgery?
On the day of living-donor liver transplant surgery, you will be admitted to the Ambulatory Surgery Center on the sixth floor of UPMC Montefiore.
You will meet with the transplant surgeon and anesthesiologist who will:
- Review the surgery
- Obtain consent forms
- Answer any last-minute questions
Following the paperwork, you will proceed to the operating room where you will be connected to the machine that monitors your vital signs. You will also receive a sedative from the anesthesiologist.
Living-donor liver transplant surgery will take five to seven hours.
Your loved ones can wait in the Ambulatory Surgery Center waiting area where staff will provide frequent updates. The transplant surgeon will also visit with family members after the surgery is complete.
Will I Need to Take Any Medication after Donating a Portion of My Liver?
No. You will not need to take lifelong medications, but will be required to receive post-liver-donation care at UPMC Montefiore to ensure proper healing.
How Long Does a Liver Donor Usually Stay in the Hospital?
Following surgery, you will move to an inpatient post-surgery unit to make sure you do not need further treatment. From there, you will transfer to a transplant recovery floor where you could stay for one week before going home.
How Soon Will I Be Able to Get Back to My Daily Routine?
Typical liver donors are able to return to an independent life of showering, getting dressed, and doing other simple daily activities when they arrive home after discharge.
Most donors are able to return to work by six to 12 weeks after surgery. By three months, most donors have returned to their pre-donation level of health.
During this time, you will visit the hospital for routine post-donation check-ups.
Who Can I Contact With Further Questions?
Feel free to call us with concerns or questions, toll-free at (877) 640-6746.
The transplant office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After 5 p.m. and on weekends, there is an answering service for urgent and emergency calls.