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Liver Donation Surgery

During a liver donation surgery, the diseased liver is removed and replaced with part of a healthy liver from a donor. If the liver donation is for an adult, 60 percent of the donor's liver is removed; if for a child, 25 to 40 percent is removed. Generally, two operations take place during liver donation surgery -- as soon as part of the healthy liver is removed from the donor, it is placed in the patient.

Liver Donation Surgery: An Overview

Liver donation surgery is a major surgery, both for the donor and the recipient. The goal of the surgery is to replace a person's diseased liver with part of your healthy liver. For many people with diseased livers, a liver transplant is their last hope for survival. While many liver recipients go on to have active lives after a transplant surgery, there are no guarantees that the surgery will be successful.

The Liver Donation Surgery Process

After your anesthesia takes effect, to begin the liver donation surgery, your abdomen will be washed with a special disinfectant solution and may also be shaved. You will be placed on your back for this surgery and covered with sterile sheets.
A large incision will be made on your abdomen, about 2 fingerwidths below the rib cage. The length of your incision will depend on your body size, but it's usually about 15 inches for the average person. Your incision may also have a second part that makes it look like an upside-down "T."
Special instruments are used to hold the skin and other tissues open. This makes it easier for your doctor to reach your liver.
If your liver section is going to another adult, the right lobe is typically used. This means that up to 60 percent of the liver may be removed. If the liver is going to a child or smaller adult, the left lobe may be used -- about 25 to 40 percent of the liver.
To divide the liver, your doctors will first locate the liver's main blood vessels and bile ducts. The liver is divided with the blood still flowing through it. After the liver is completely divided, clamps are placed on the vessels going into and out of the section that will be transplanted, and the lobe is removed. The lobe is then flushed free of blood, cleaned, and placed in a cold solution to preserve it. The lobe is then taken to the recipient's operating room.
Since the gallbladder sits nearly in between the two lobes of the liver, it will also be removed, but not transplanted. Since the gallbladder is not a vital organ, you can live a perfectly healthy life without it, although some people do experience temporary diarrhea.
Once the lobe and necessary blood vessels are removed, your doctor will continue to work on the remaining lobe, its blood vessels, and other structures. This is to make sure that your liver is working correctly and that you will continue to be safe and healthy.
Your doctor will then remove the instruments and close the incision with stitches and/or surgical staples. The area is then covered with a bandage.
Because of the many blood vessels in the liver and the large area that is exposed to surgery, liver donation surgery usually takes about 6 to 8 hours for most people.
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