Let's talk about liver donation in a little more detail.
Every year there are over 17,000 people waiting to receive a new liver. But since only about 4500 liver transplants are performed each year, people needing 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.
The purpose of liver donation is to replace a diseased liver with a healthy liver. 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, living-donor surgeries are only performed in about 5% of 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% of the liver. Your remaining liver re-grows to almost its original size within a month or two, and the transplanted liver re-grows as well. The amount of time it takes for the liver to return to full function is different for each person.
Some of the benefits of the living-donor 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
• And, living-donor livers don't have the damage that sometimes happens to livers from deceased donors.
For someone with a very diseased liver, transplant surgery is often the last hope for survival. However, having such a big surgery, especially when the person is already very sick, can be dangerous, and not every liver recipient survives. About 1 out of 10 recipients will die within several months of the transplant operation. This is true for both living-donor and deceased donor transplants.
It's important to be aware of these facts as you think about being a liver donor.