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Can a Living Person Donate a Liver?

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The liver is an important organ. It filters toxins out of your blood. You can’t live without one for more than a few days. Can a living person donate a liver? You might have heard about living liver donation and wondered how that is possible.

It’s possible because your liver is actually a very unique organ within your body. At Gift of Life, we hope to explain how living people can actually donate their livers and what living tissue donation means. Keep reading to find out more today.

What is Living Liver Donation?

Your liver is basically a sponge. Unlike most of your organs, it doesn’t have a strongly differentiated internal structure, and each part of the liver does the same job as the entire liver.

What you donate is part, or a “lobe,” of your liver, which is transplanted into the recipient. Over time, your liver will grow back to its former size. This is what allows for living liver donation.

The transplanted lobe will also slowly grow into a full-sized liver, assuming the transplant works. You can live with reduced liver function while your liver recovers. Most donors donate part of their liver to someone close, such as a family member or a friend. However, liver transplants are not exclusive to those close to the recipient either. You have to have a compatible blood type in order to be able to donate.

Is Living Liver Donation Safe?

Any surgery carries some risks. There are risks of infection and similar that come with any surgery. However, modern laparoscopic techniques reduce risk and downtime. In fact, most donors are able to return to work within four weeks.

There are some things you will need to do before and after the surgery. It takes about six months for your liver to return to its previous size, and this means some long-term restrictions.

  • You will be in the hospital under observation for five to ten days and possibly asked to stay close to the transplant center for longer.
  • You should avoid pregnancy for a year after donating. Growing a baby puts extra strain on your liver, so it’s important to make sure it has fully recovered.
  • You will need to avoid alcohol for six weeks before and three months after the surgery.
  • If you smoke, you need to quit six weeks before the surgery.

It is a relatively safe surgery as long as you’re in good health and follow all instructions from your surgeon. After six months to a year, you will have no lingering effects except possibly some scarring at the incision site.

Can a Living Person Donate a Liver?

The following are the basic criteria for being a living liver donor:

  • Between 18 and 65 years old
  • Not overweight
  • Not pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Not on estrogen-containing birth control. If you are taking this medication, you will need to stop six weeks before the surgery and use another method of birth control.
  • Not addicted to alcohol
  • Having a liver that is proportionately large enough that you can spare enough for the recipient and with blood vessels in the right pattern

Living donors need to be between 18 and 65 years old and should not be overweight, smoke (if you do smoke, you need to be capable of quitting for a while), or be pregnant. You should not have a major physical or mental illness. Living donors are evaluated by a doctor to ensure that they are healthy enough for the surgery and are doing it for the right reasons. You don’t need to be related to or know the recipient, but in many cases, the donor and recipient are family members or friends.

You will also be evaluated to make sure you are informed of and understand the potential risks. Being a living donor is not a decision to make lightly, but it allows you to save somebody else’s life.

See How to Become a Living Liver Donor Today!

You can become a living liver donor by registering through the state of Michigan. Many people are motivated by the situation a friend or family member is in, and matches between family members are more common. Gift of Life Michigan supports living donors and their families by providing resources to help you through the process. You are a hero! Sign up today to help others have a fulfilling life; the process only takes a few minutes.

Image Source: SewCreamStudio/Shutterstock

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