For many people, waiting on a liver transplant can take years on the current wait list. According to Donate Life Texas, an average of 18 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. The traditional organ donor model of waiting on a deceased donor organ to match the recipient has created significant wait times for those in desperate need of a new liver. Why? Because there aren’t enough organ donors for the people who need organs.
But for patients on the wait list for a liver donor, there is another option that’s gaining in popularity–living liver donors. Transplant physicians are now encouraging those on the wait list to find a living donor who is deemed a “match” and is willing to donate part of their liver to the recipient. Within about three weeks of the transplant, the donor liver can generate new tissue and regrow to its original size.
Living donors may be relatives, loved ones or friends of the recipient. They should be 18-60 years old, in good health, have a compatible blood type and want to make the liver donation without outside pressure. The donor’s medical expenses typically are covered by the recipient’s medical benefits.
There are number of benefits to using a liver from a live donor:
- A living donor liver is the best quality liver for transplantation.
- Using a living donor eliminates the long wait time associated with a national deceased donor waiting list.
- Prompt use of a living donor liver maximizes the chance that the recipient will receive a transplant before the condition worsens.
- The surgery can be scheduled at the convenience of the donor and recipient.
The surgery is complex and requires expertise and experience. Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas is only one of two Texas medical facilities that perform the operation, and one of the top 10 in the U.S. in the number of living donor liver transplants performed annually.
Giuliano Testa, MD, surgical director of living donor transplantation at Baylor Dallas, said his surgical team performs about a dozen living liver transplants annually. He said the number of living donors has been steady for more than a decade, but the number of liver transplant candidates has increased as baby boomers reach retirement age.
“Patients with potential living liver donors should consider this approach because the procedure has become a proven surgical option for those in need of a liver transplant,” explains Dr. Testa.