If you are considering becoming a living liver donor, you should understand the process and the specific qualifications you need to meet. There are also risks and benefits to consider when donating an organ.
Donors should be family members, relatives, close friends or acquaintances of the intended recipient or their immediate family. To qualify as a living donor, you must:
- Have a compatible blood type
- Be physically fit and have no significant medical problems
- Be between 21 and 50 years of age; however, slightly younger or slightly older candidates may be considered on a case-by-case basis
- Have health insurance
The decision to donate must be completely voluntary, and free from any pressure, guilt, or compensation of any kind.
If you are interested in being a living liver donor, please fill out the Living Donor Health Screening Questionnaire.
Donor Benefits and Risks
Benefits — Living donor transplant surgery is a life-saving procedure. Liver donors have the benefit of knowing that they have saved a life, or drastically improved the quality of life for the recipient.
Risks — Surgery of any kind carries inherent risks, and liver donation is major surgery. While serious complications are rare, they are possible. All risks are reviewed in detail with the donor before the evaluation. Most complications that occur are minor and reversible; however, potential serious side effects can occur. These may include bleeding, infection, liver failure, injury to the bile duct, complications from general anesthesia, and even death.
The Evaluation Process — At the Penn Transplant Institute, the goal of the evaluation process is to protect the donor's health, safety and well-being. Potential donors undergo extensive testing to determine if it will be safe for them to become a living donor.
The journey to donation takes place in four stages:
- Phase 1: Screening
- Phase 2: Consults and Testing
- Consultation with a transplant surgeon, hepatologist, cardiologist, social worker and psychiatrist
- Meeting with an independent donor advocate
- Physical examination and review of medical history
- Blood typing and tests
- Chest x-ray
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram
- Liver imaging — such as an MRI or CT scan — to determine liver size, abnormalities
- Phase 3: Invasive Studies (only if indicated — often not needed)
- Liver biopsy
- An angiogram
- Phase 4: Scheduling the Surgery
- A date for surgery is selected that is suitable for the donor, recipient, and transplant team
- Donate one unit of blood to be used during surgery if necessary