It's important to understand the surgery and recovery process for a living liver donor transplant. Read about your options here and associated costs and coverage.
The actual donor operation takes six to eight hours. The recipient and donor are in separate operating rooms at the same time, and a team of surgeons performs each surgery simultaneously. An incision in the shape of a hockey stick is made in the upper right abdomen of the donor. Approximately one-third to two-thirds of the liver is removed, depending on anatomy and what is needed for the recipient. The gallbladder is also removed as part of the surgery. Care is taken to ensure that there is sufficient liver remaining for normal liver function in the donor.
Recovery from Surgery
Immediately following surgery, the donor is taken to a post-operative recovery room for observation and is then transferred to a surgical ICU overnight. If the recovery is proceeding as expected, the donor is then transferred to the transplant floor. Activity and diet are resumed very soon after that, and the donor remains in the hospital for approximately five days.
After leaving the hospital, donors are encouraged to slowly resume normal activity. Most donors return to work six to eight weeks after surgery, depending on the nature of their job. Donors will have several follow-up visits after the surgery ensure that the healing process is successful and a full recovery is achieved.
Cost and Coverage
The entire donors' evaluation and hospitalization costs are covered by the recipient's insurance. The donor is not responsible for any medical expenses or hospital expenses directly related to the evaluation and donation, but cannot be reimbursed by the recipient for lost income while away from work, transportation costs or personal expenses.
Some private insurance companies do offer reimbursement for transportation and meals. Before the evaluation, the transplant financial advisor will carefully review the potential donor/recipient procedures and associated costs. Financial assistance to cover donation related expenses may be available through the National Living Donor Assistance Center.
Although the recipient's insurance will cover testing and donor work up, it is important that donors have health insurance as a safeguard in the event that abnormal findings require follow-up with a specialist or primary care physician.