Now, let's discuss the surgery itself. After your anesthesia takes effect, 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 finger widths 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 2 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 right 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 usually takes about 6 to 8 hours for most people.