Categories: Hepatology

Does donating part of liver shorten Liver donor’s life?

What is a Living Donor Transplant?

When an organ or a part of an organ is removed from a living individual and placed in a person whose organ functionality has been compromised, this process is called a living donor transplant.

On the similar guidelines living liver transplant is a procedure when a liver or a part of the liver is transplanted from a healthy living individual to a person with the non-functional liver. Both the liver regenerates to their full dimensions gradually.

Like most of the transplants, it can be either:

  1. Living Donor Transplant
  2. Paired organ exchange – When you have a living donor available but the issue concerned is incompatibility, another similar pair is found and exchange is made.
  3. Deceased donor transplant – When a person dies due to any cause and the guardian decides to donate their organs. This also happens in brain death cases.

The process of becoming a Liver Donor:

As a donor, a person should be well aware of the risks associated with a liver donation. Not just risks, it of paramount importance to know all the major steps involved in the transplant. Let’s look into each step carefully.

  • Evaluation – Practiced by the medical team involved ensuring proper liver matching. It includes test like:
  1. Physical Exam and medical history
  2. Tissue typing
  3. Blood tests
  4. Urine tests
  5. PAP smear – Only for females above 45
  6. Mammogram – Only for females above 45
  7. Colonoscopy
  8. Echocardiogram
  9. X-Rays
  10. ECG
  11. Social and Psychological evaluation
  • Surgery

During surgery, an incision is placed on the donor’s abdomen in right just below the rib cage. A portion of the liver is taken depending on the need of the patient without disturbing any vessel connected to it. The rest of the liver is sutured back followed by incision closing.

  • Recovery

This step requires a hospital stay post-surgery for 7 days. The donor may feel pain at the incision site which will be controlled by pain meds. Close observation is practiced for the signs of recovery and regeneration of the liver.

Even after discharge weight of more than 5 kgs should not be lifted until 8 weeks. The donor may have to visit the hospital weekly and take prescribed medications. They also need to practice incision holding and leg movements as told. The best part about liver transplant is that the donor liver will regenerate to almost its size in 6-8 weeks. Absolute personal and professional rehabilitation within 6-8 weeks is mostly evident in donors.

The risk associated with Liver Donation:

  • Possible allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Wound infection
  • Bleeding that may require transfusion
  • Blood clots
  • Pneumonia
  • Bile leakage, bile duct problems
  • Hernia
  • Scar tissue formation
  • Death (extremely rare)

General misconception regarding being Liver Donor:

Usually, people think that it is like a kidney transplant and that they may have to live without a part of their liver for the rest of their lives, which is not true. The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate to its normal size with time. This is what happens after donation. You have a ‘good as new’ liver within 6-8 weeks. You can get back to each pattern of your lifestyle post that period.

Quality of life of donor after Liver Donation: Excellent. As good as it was pre-transplant.

The life expectancy of a Liver Donor:

As much as a person without liver transplant meaning the general population.

Now you know that living liver donation has no impact on how long and healthy you will live. The only impact it creates is on your psyche and society. You live with a proud and gratifying feeling for the rest of life. And people look up to you as an idol who they can imitate one day. So step up and be the paradigm that you are thinking of being…

Dr. Sanjay Goja, Program Director and Clinical Lead – Liver Transplant & HPB Surgery, Robotic Surgery, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra & Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram

Narayana Health

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