UPMC transplant doctors consulting about imaging for a patient.

Living-Donor Liver Transplants

As the disparity between available organs for transplantation and the number of potential recipients increases, the waiting list grows rapidly. In fact, only one third of patients on the waiting list will be able to receive a deceased-donor liver transplant. Living-donor liver transplantation provides a way for patients to overcome the limitations of the waiting list, with improved outcomes compared with deceased-donor liver transplants.

While the typical wait for a deceased-donor liver transplant ranges from one-and-a-half to two years, a living-donor transplant can usually be performed within a few months.

Patients who receive a living-donor liver transplant do not take priority over or skip ahead of other patients on the waiting list, but rather, are able to get out of line because they have identified a suitable living donor, such as a family member or friend. This surgery is made possible by the liver’s unique ability to regenerate, or regrow, in just about eight to 10 weeks. While recovery time may vary, most donors are back to baseline health within three months after surgery.

Advantages of Living Donation

Living-donor liver transplantation provides consistent benefit to patients and physicians. Advantages include:

  • Improved graft survival and patient survival
  • A lower incidence of complication
  • Less delayed graft function
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Better graft function
  • Elimination of waiting time
  • Decreased cold ischemia injury
  • Expansion of the donor pool

UPMC Expertise

For more than 30 years, UPMC experts have made an indelible mark on the field of transplant medicine. Our physicians and researchers have accomplished many historical “firsts” and have pioneered and refined new therapies, giving hope to patients across the country and around the world.

At UPMC, we believe that living donation is a life-saving procedure, so we discuss it with every patient being evaluated for a liver transplant. As the percentage of living donor transplant procedures grows nationally, UPMC continues to rank among the top programs in the country for the number of living-donor liver transplants. We have been consistently challenged with some of the most difficult and complex cases – including patients with acute liver failure and combined thoracic conditions. Our surgeons and specialists have used this experience to develop new and improved treatment modalities.

UPMC Living Donor Champion Program

Concerns about putting a loved one at risk makes it difficult for patients on the transplant waiting list to ask a family member or a friend to consider living donation. Through the UPMC Living Donor Champion program, we offer support to patients and their family members through the entire transplant journey.

As part of this program, patients are encouraged to identify a Champion, or an advocate, to initiate the process of finding a donor. The Champion takes on the responsibility of identifying a living donor – allowing the patient to focus on his or her health.

Help your patients learn more about our program by downloading the Living Donor Champion Toolkit (PDF).

UPMC Complex Care ConnectTM

Through our innovative UPMC Complex Care Connect™ program, UPMC works with hospitals that have an existing liver transplant program and want to provide patients the option of a living-donor liver transplant. 

Through a collaborative approach, we work with partner hospitals to coordinate transplant surgery at UPMC and to provide pre- and post-surgery care at the partner hospital.