What characteristics would make me a good liver donor?

While family members are often considered first, live liver donors do not have to be family members. Attributes of ideal liver donor candidates include:

  • Body size about the same as the recipient, except for adults donating to pediatric recipients
  • Blood type the same as the recipient (a matching Rh factor is not required)
  • Strong health without major medical conditions or psychological problems
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Willingness to undergo surgery, recovery and the possible lifelong impact of the procedure

What types of tests will I need in order to qualify as a liver donor?

Once your preliminary information is reviewed and it is determined that you are a candidate for liver donation, your patient care team will order tests to assess your health status and compatibility with the recipient. The tests will vary depending on your situation, but will likely include a complete physical and mental health exam, blood tests, cardiac evaluations, X-rays and a CT scan, liver function tests and a liver biopsy.

Are there risks associated with live liver donation?

Liver donation requires major surgery, which is associated with complications such as pain,  wound infections and pneumonia. Other risks include hernia; abdominal bleeding; bile leakage; intestinal problems including blockages and tears; organ impairment or failure that could require additional treatments, surgery or liver transplantation; or even death. These risks are fully discussed with the donor during the evaluation.

How will liver donation affect my life in the long term?

To monitor your liver regrowth, a series of checkups is required during the first year after your procedure. Another checkup will be scheduled on the second anniversary of surgery. The long-term effects of live liver donation are unknown because the procedure is relatively new and nationally, there have been a relatively small number of donations each year. Keep in mind that your care team at Froedtert Hospital would like to be your medical resource for life, and will be available to you for questions and care for as long as you would like.

Will liver donation affect my mental health?

Possibly. If the transplant does not go as planned or you have complications from surgery, you may feel resentment, regret, anger, anxiety or depression. Since the majority of living donations go well, you are also likely to feel positive about helping a loved one get a new chance at a healthier life.  

Can I talk to someone who has been through the process?

Certainly. Your transplant coordinator can connect you with other live liver donors. You can read stories submitted by living organ donors across the country on transplantliving.org, sponsored by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS).

How will donation impact my finances and insurance?

Your medical evaluation, surgery, follow-up tests and related medical appointments will be covered by the recipient’s insurance. Travel, lodging and child care expenses you incur, as well as lost wages, usually are not covered by the recipient’s insurance. Medical problems resulting from your donation may or may not be covered by your insurance and the recipient’s insurance. Check with your transplant coordinator regarding insurance and financial questions, or talk to a transplant financial liaison on the team. Talk with your own health and life insurance carriers about the short- and long-term implications of donation, as well. And, before making a final decision about donation, we suggest you talk with your employer, especially if you work for the military, police or fire departments, or in a very physically demanding job.

How can I learn more?

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