For Donors: Living-Donor Liver Transplant Guidelines, Process, Benefits, and Risks

Who Can Be An Adult-to-Child Liver Donor?

To donate part of your liver, you must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 55.
  • Have a BMI less than or equal to 32.
  • Be in good health with no history of:
    • Liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatitis B or C.
    • Heart disease.
    • Diabetes.

If you want to help a child on the liver transplant waitlist, contact the UPMC Liver Transplant Program at 833-514-5999.

The Living-Liver Donation Process

The first step in the living-liver donation process is having an evaluation conducted by the UPMC liver transplant team.

This process helps make sure you have a compatible blood type with the child and your liver is functioning normally.

Your assessment will also include:

  • Financial clearance to discuss your health insurance and expenses related to the transplant process.
  • Psychiatric consults to make sure you can handle the physical and emotional changes of liver donation.
  • Blood tests to check for diseases or serious health problems.
  • Imaging tests including an echocardiogram and CT scan of the liver.

What Liver Donors Can Expect During Transplant Surgery

With adult-to-child liver donation, transplant surgeons only need about 25% of your liver based on the child's size. The liver can regenerate, or regrow to its normal size, often within weeks after surgery.

Surgery for living-liver donation requires general anesthesia and takes about five to seven hours.

During surgery, transplant team members will prep the recipient to receive a part of your liver. Once the surgeon removes part of your liver, it will be transported by ambulance to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and transplanted into the child.

Parent Living-Liver Donors

If you're a parent donating part of your liver to your child:

  • Be sure you have a strong support system to help you and your child during recovery.
  • Use our video conference technology to see and speak with your child as you both heal.
  • You must recover fully before you can leave the hospital. This may take up to one week.

Our goal is to return you to your child as quickly and safely as possible.

After Living-Donor Liver Transplant Surgery

Everyone heals at a different rate. Your transplant team will work with you on a custom treatment plan to meet your recovery needs.

When you go home, continue to take it easy. Most people return to work about two months after surgery, depending on the physical demands of their job.

You'll also have routine follow-up appointments at about six months, one year, and two years after surgery.

Living Adult-to-Child Liver Donation Benefits

There are many benefits to living donation. Living donors can:

  • Feel good knowing they saved the life of a child with end-stage liver disease.
  • Help improve long-term outcomes because they gave a child part of their healthy liver.
  • Increase the number of organs available for other children on the liver transplant waiting list.

Living-Donor Liver Transplant Risks

Like any surgery, living donation does pose some risks. Complications requiring further surgery or ongoing treatment are rare, but can happen.

Possible risks of living-donor liver transplant surgery may include:

  • Bile leakage. This occurs in a small subset of liver donors and most often resolves on its own.
  • Infection. Some liver donors may get an infection at the site of surgery. If this happens, our transplant team will treat your infection and monitor you until fully healed.
  • Organ damage or other problems. Liver donation can cause organ damage, heart problems, blood clots, or stroke.

Info and Support for Liver Donors

At UPMC, our goal is to make sure you and the child understand what's happening each step of the way.

At the hospital, you'll have access to:

  • A range of resources about adult-to-child liver donor surgery.
  • Guidance from our transplant coordinators, social workers, and other liver transplant team members.
  • Counselors and chaplains to help you through the emotional and social aspects of donation.

Housing and Financial Resources

  • Ronald McDonald House offers lodging to families traveling to Pittsburgh for their child's care.
  • PassportCare helps those coming to Pittsburgh from outside of the U.S. We can help arrange transportation, lodging, translation, and other services to meet your needs during your time with us.
  • National Living-Donor Assistance Center helps cover additional costs related to organ donation. Although donors don't have to pay for surgery or testing, you may need to pay for lodging and any follow-up medical care.

Learn More About Living-Donor Liver Transplant

Contact UPMC About Living-Donor Liver Transplant

To learn more about donating your liver to a child, contact the UPMC Liver Transplant Program. Call 833-514-5999, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Or sign up to be a living donor.