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Facts About Liver Transplants

By knowing facts about liver transplants, you can make an informed decision about being a donor. Because there is a 1- to 2-year waiting list for those needing transplants, 1 out of 4 patients who need a new liver will die before one becomes available. When considering facts about liver transplants, remember that the liver is one of the few organs that will grow back if a portion of it is removed.

Facts About Liver Transplants: How Common Are They?

Every year, there are over 17,000 people waiting to receive a new liver. However, since only about 4,500 liver transplants are performed each year, people who are in need of a transplant often stay on the waiting list for 1 to 2 years. Because of this shortage, about 1 out of every 4 patients who need a new liver will die before one becomes available.

Facts About Liver Transplant Types

The purpose of liver donation is to replace a diseased liver with a healthy one. There are two ways to do this. One way is to get a liver from a deceased donor -- someone who has recently passed away. The second way is through a surgery called "living-donor transplantation." In living-donor liver transplantation, the doctors take a portion of a liver from a living person, or donor, and transplant it into someone else.
Surgeons have been transplanting livers from deceased donors since 1963. Living-donor liver transplants have been performed on children since 1989, and on adults since the early-to-mid '90s. Still, adult living donor liver transplants are only performed in about 5 percent of all adult liver transplants.
The liver is one of the few organs that will grow back if a portion of it is removed. It's important that enough of the liver is removed to support the person receiving it and enough is left to keep the donor alive and well. Based on current research and thousands of transplant surgeries, surgeons have found that the right lobe is usually the best size to transplant into an average-sized adult. This lobe makes up about 60 percent of the liver. Your remaining liver regrows to almost its original size within a month or two, and the transplanted liver regrows as well. The amount of time that it takes for the liver to return to full function is different for each person.
Some of the benefits of the living-donor liver transplantation include:
  • A shorter waiting time for the person receiving the transplant
  • More convenient scheduling of the surgery
  • Less time passing between removal of the liver and the transplantation
  • Livers from living donors don't have the damage that sometimes happens to livers from deceased donors.
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