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Liver transplant: When it is needed and who can donate

The research was inspired by the tactic cancer cells' use to evade the immune system. ©Shutterstock.

Patients waiting for a liver transplant are much more than the number of available deceased donors. Living-donor liver transplant is an alternative way to reduce waiting list deaths.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : January 16, 2020 11:20 AM IST

The liver helps digest food and remove toxic substances from our body. A variety of factors such as genetics, viral infections, alcohol use, smoking, obesity, etc. can damage the liver. Over time, damage to the liver may progress to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. A diseased liver can be removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor. This surgical procedure is called liver transplant.

A liver transplant is performed for end-stage liver failure that cannot be controlled using other treatments, or for some specific types of liver cancer.

Although most liver transplant operations use livers from deceased donors, in some cases, a part of a liver may be donated by a living donor. So, who can donate a portion of the liver? Read below for more information.

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Living Donor Liver Transplant

Patients waiting for a liver transplant are much more than the number of available deceased donors. Living-donor liver transplant is an alternative way to reduce waiting list deaths. The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself and that makes living donation possible. After the surgery, the donor's remaining liver regrows and returns to its normal size, volume and capacity within a couple of months. Meanwhile, the transplanted liver portion also grows and restores normal liver function in the recipient.

People who underwent living-donor liver transplant have fewer medical problems after the procedure than those who receive a deceased-donor liver. The donated organ from a living donor also has a longer survival rate than the deceased-donor organ. Below are some facts about living liver donation -

  • It involves removing as much as 60 percent of a person's healthy liver to replace the recipient's diseased liver.
  • Living-donor liver transplants are more common among children who need a liver transplant than among adults.
  • Living liver donation was first attempted in children in the late 1980s. Adult transplants followed a decade later.
  • An adult with a healthy liver can donate a portion of his/her liver to a child or another adult.
  • Matching of living-donor livers with recipients is based on age, blood type, organ size and other factors.
  • Most living liver donors are close family members or friends of the liver transplant candidates.
  • A living donor's liver fully regrows within 4 months.
  • Living-donor liver transplants are rare because the surgery can frighten or disqualify some donor.

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