Living Donation Process

A healthy adult who desires to be a potential liver donor, will meet with a team of experts at the Starzl Transplantation Institute for evaluation and tests. This process is meant to ensure that you and the recipient face the least possible risks with the highest chance of success. Once approved, you will undergo the surgery and a recovery period.

Evaluation

You will undergo an initial evaluation to make sure you have a compatible blood type with the recipient and have normal liver function.

Next, you will have an extensive assessment by a multidisciplinary team to make sure you are physically, emotionally, and financially able to complete the donation process. This includes:

  • Financial clearance to discuss your medical insurance and financial responsibilities related to the transplant process.
  • Psychiatric consults to ensure you can handle the physical and emotional changes associated with liver donation.
  • Blood tests to check for diseases or serious medical conditions.
  • Imaging tests include an echocardiogram and CT scan of the liver.

If a cadaveric liver becomes available while undergoing evaluation, the patient will be recommended for the deceased donor organ first.

What to Expect During Surgery

Our transplant team has excellent outcomes, but there's always some risk to any surgery. Because adult-to-child liver donation uses a much smaller portion of the liver, donors do have a lower risk of complications from surgery.

If you are a suitable donor, your surgery will be scheduled at UPMC Montefiore.

The liver donor operation takes about 5 to 7 hours. You will be placed under general anesthesia and a surgeon will remove the appropriate portion of your liver, about 25 percent.

During the donor surgery, the child will be prepped and ready. The extracted portion of the liver is then taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC by ambulance accompanied by an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) crew and the transplant surgeon. The child's surgery will then begin.

After Surgery

Everyone recovers at a different rate, and your transplant team will work with you to provide a personalized treatment plan. We understand this is a difficult time, particularly if you are a parent making the donation.

You may need to stay in the hospital up to a week after surgery to fully recover. When you return home, continue to take it easy. Most people return to work and regular activities about 2 months after surgery, depending upon the physical demands of your job.

You'll also have regular follow-up appointments scheduled at about 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after surgery.

Parent Donors

If you are a parent to the recipient, you will have surgery at a different hospital than your child. You must recover fully before you can leave the hospital, but we do everything we can to help you connect with your child after surgery. We have video conferencing capabilities to let you see and speak with your child as you both recover. We will help you return to each other as quickly and safely as possible.

Please be sure before surgery, that you have a strong network in place to provide support to both you and your child during recovery.

Learn more about the living-donor liver transplant process at UPMC.