After evaluation and testing are completed, and the patient is accepted as a live liver donor, the donation process begins. Our care team educates donors and their families about the surgery and recovery and then works with the recipient to schedule the procedures. Our live liver donor program care team helps patients prepare for the procedure and stays close through each stage of the patient experience – before, during and after surgery.
Liver Donation Surgery
The surgery to remove a portion of the liver requires general anesthesia to keep patients asleep and pain-free. When donating to an adult recipient, 40 to 60 percent of a donor’s liver may be removed. The gallbladder may also be removed during surgery.
Donors and transplant patients at Froedtert Hospital receive care on an inpatient unit dedicated to transplant patients. Liver donors should expect to stay in the hospital up to a week following surgery, or longer in some cases. Recovery from liver donation surgery can be painful for the first week or two, so the care team will monitor each patient’s condition closely and provide pain medications to ease discomfort.
Care After Surgery
The remaining portion of the liver regains most of its function within two weeks of the surgery. The liver will regrow to almost its normal size in three months.
Donors are likely to feel fatigued during recovery as the body heals and the liver regenerates. The care team may restrict patients from driving for a few weeks and from heavy lifting for six weeks or more after surgery. A healthy lifestyle and moderate use of alcohol are strongly suggested, especially during the first year after surgery. Complications from the procedure are considered rare and studies to date indicate that liver donation has little effect on a donor’s long-term health and life expectancy.
Donors typically have a follow-up visit with their surgeon two or three weeks following the procedure. They will need to have their health closely monitored the first year through a series of visits with members of the care team. Annual checkups are advised starting the second year after surgery. The liver transplant care team at Froedtert Hospital provides long-term transplant care support for patients as long as they desire.