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Living Donation

Living-Liver Donation Frequently Asked Questions

Deciding on Becoming a Living-Liver Donor

Who can be a living-liver donor?

To become a living donor, you must:

At UPMC, our team of liver transplant experts will assess you to ensure that organ donation poses the least possible risk.

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.

But, as with any major surgery, liver donation surgery can include complications such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Heart problems
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke

Death is very rare, but has occurred in a few cases.

Our living-donor liver transplant team will discuss all risks in more detail during your pre-donation evaluation.

» Learn more: Benefits and risks of living-liver donation.

Do I need to have a compatible blood type with the recipient to become a liver donor?

In the past, one requirement for living donation was that the liver transplant recipient and donor needed to be a blood group match. This is no longer the case.

If you've been told that donating your liver would not work due to the "wrong" blood type, we urge you to contact our program at (877) 640-6746 to discuss this new possibility.

Do I need to be a relative of the person who receives my liver?

While many wish to donate a portion of their liver to a family member, you can donate your liver to a friend, coworker, or even a stranger.

Before Living-Liver Donor Surgery

What does the pre-liver-donation evaluation involve?

Before scheduling living-donor liver surgery, you will undergo a thorough pre-liver-donation evaluation.

This will ensure that:

  1. You have no health conditions or concerns that would cause special risks during the surgery.
  2. The transplant recipient will benefit from the donated portion of your liver.

You will also meet with the living-donor liver transplant team and have the chance to ask any questions.

Who pays for liver donation surgery?

Before your donation evaluation, a 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 living-donor liver transplant nurse coordinator will give you details on how to prepare for your surgery.

We ask all organ donors to take basic health measures to ensure surgery goes smoothly and lessen 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 add risks to surgery, people who smoke heavily do not make ideal organ donors.
  • Alcohol and drugs: Prior to surgery, you must be sober of alcohol and drugs. We also ask you to 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 other forms of birth control during this time.

Living-Liver Donor Surgery — What to Expect

What happens on the day of liver surgery?

On the day of living-donor liver transplant surgery, we will admit you 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 with you.
  • Obtain consent forms.
  • Answer any last-minute questions.

Following the paperwork, you will proceed to the operating room. A nurse will connect you to a 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 meet with them 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 any medicine. You will need 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 living-donor liver 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?

Most liver donors return to:

  • An independent life of showering, getting dressed, and doing other simple daily tasks when they arrive home after discharge (about one week after surgery).
  • Work by six to 12 weeks after surgery.
  • Their pre-donation level of health by three months.

During this time, you will visit the hospital for routine post-liver-donation check-ups.

Contact Us or Learn More About Living-Donor Liver Transplant

Who can I contact with further questions about living liver donation?

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.

Where can I learn more about living liver donation?

The links below will open a new browser window.

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

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