Penn Transplant Institute

Living Liver Donor Program

Resolving the Liver Donor Shortage

Liver transplantation is a life-saving surgery for people with many forms of end-stage liver disease. In the United States, more than 15,000 patients are on the waiting list to receive a liver transplant. In the greater Philadelphia region, there are more than 700 people on the liver transplant waiting list.

There are 700 people waiting for a new liver in the Philadelphia region.

While significant improvements in organ donation have been made, last year, despite a 14 percent increase in liver transplants from the year before, only 322 people received transplants in our geographic area. As a result of this critical shortage of deceased donor livers, many patients die each year while waiting for a life-saving organ to become available.

To help resolve the organ donor shortage and save lives, living donor liver transplantation was developed. This procedure allows a healthy adult to donate a portion of their liver to the patient in need. Unlike most organs, the liver has the remarkable ability to regenerate. The donor's remaining liver grows to its original size within weeks.

The surgical team at Penn and CHOP performed their first living donor from an adult to a child in 1996. The Penn Transplant Institute was the first transplant program in the region to perform an adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant in 1999.

There are 15,000 people waiting for a new liver while 11,000 more are added annually.

Since then, our program has performed over 100 live donor liver transplants – more than 10 times the number of live donor liver transplants performed by other Philadelphia transplant teams – making Penn the busiest living donor liver transplant center in the region and one of the largest and most experienced liver transplant programs in the nation.