Living Liver Donation

A lifesaving and life-changing gift

Thank you for your interest in living liver donation.

The decision to donate a portion of your liver to a loved one or to a stranger can be life enhancing for the recipient as well as the donor.

At IU Health, our team is dedicated to supporting living donors throughout their journey.

To be considered for living liver donation, the first step is to complete and submit the required evaluation form below. In this confidential online form, you will provide detailed personal and family medical history.

A living donor coordinator will contact you within five business days to review your information, answer any questions and explain the evaluation process. All communication between the transplant center and a potential donor is confidential.

How to Become a Living Liver Donor at IU Health

To be considered for living liver donation, the first step is to complete and submit the required evaluation form below. In this confidential online form, you will provide detailed personal and family medical history.

A living donor coordinator will contact you within five business days to review your information, answer any questions and explain the evaluation process. All communication between the transplant center and a potential donor is confidential.

Please download and review our booklet to learn more about living liver donation, including the evaluation process, potential risks of living donation and your rights as a living donor:

Our primary concern is your health, safety and well-being before, during and after partial liver donation.

Why Become a Living Donor?

Living donors help save the lives of patients experiencing liver failure.

When someone has end-stage liver disease, declining health and death are real possibilities when medical treatment is no longer effective. Liver transplantation is the patient’s only option. There are currently 14,000 patients on the liver wait list. Of those patients, 20% will die while they wait on the 8,000 livers donated from deceased donors each year. As the number of people needing a liver transplant has grown, living donation has become an alternative treatment option for patients, particularly those with lower MELD scores.

Living donors reduce or eliminate the need for patients to spend years waiting for a deceased donor liver transplant. By donating a portion of their liver, living donors also help increase the number of livers available for those still on the waiting list.

An organ from a living donor can function better and last longer because the donor is healthy. It also functions better because the organ is transplanted into the recipient shortly after being removed from the donor. Because of these factors, patients receiving an organ from a living donor often have better outcomes than patients receiving an organ from a deceased donor. This advantage continues long term.

Things to Keep in Mind

Your decision to donate must be completely voluntary and free of pressure or guilt. You have the right to withdraw your participation as a donor at any time during the process.

A living donor does not have to be related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type (ABO). If your blood type does not match your intended liver recipient, there may still be options for living donation. Age and size are also taken into consideration.

All information between a potential living donor and IU Health Transplant is confidential due to privacy laws. The transplant center is unable to share any donor information with a patient in need of a liver transplant.

What to Expect with Living Liver Donation

Please download and review our booklet to learn more about living liver donation, including the evaluation process, potential risks of living donation and your rights as a living donor:

Our primary concern is your health, safety and well-being before, during and after partial liver donation.

Why Become a Living Donor?

Living donors help save the lives of patients experiencing liver failure.

When someone has end-stage liver disease, declining health and death are real possibilities when medical treatment is no longer effective. Liver transplantation is the patient’s only option. There are currently 14,000 patients on the liver wait list. Of those patients, 20% will die while they wait on the 8,000 livers donated from deceased donors each year. As the number of people needing a liver transplant has grown, living donation has become an alternative treatment option for patients, particularly those with lower MELD scores.

Living donors reduce or eliminate the need for patients to spend years waiting for a deceased donor liver transplant. By donating a portion of their liver, living donors also help increase the number of livers available for those still on the waiting list.

An organ from a living donor can function better and last longer because the donor is healthy. It also functions better because the organ is transplanted into the recipient shortly after being removed from the donor. Because of these factors, patients receiving an organ from a living donor often have better outcomes than patients receiving an organ from a deceased donor. This advantage continues long term.

Things to Keep in Mind

Your decision to donate must be completely voluntary and free of pressure or guilt. You have the right to withdraw your participation as a donor at any time during the process.

A living donor does not have to be related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type (ABO). If your blood type does not match your intended liver recipient, there may still be options for living donation. Age and size are also taken into consideration.

All information between a potential living donor and IU Health Transplant is confidential due to privacy laws. The transplant center is unable to share any donor information with a patient in need of a liver transplant.

After initial screening, the potential living donor meets with the surgeon and transplant coordinator for an initial consultation. At this time, they will also meet with a living donor advocate whose role is to protect and promote the rights and interests of each living donor.

If the potential living donor wishes to proceed, they undergo a careful and thorough evaluation process to determine if they are eligible for donation. This phase includes testing, imaging and consultations at IU Health.

If approved to donate, a surgery date is scheduled that works for the donor and recipient. The donors will return to the hospital less than a week before surgery for pre-admission testing and final consultations.

Evaluation

After initial screening, the potential living donor meets with the surgeon and transplant coordinator for an initial consultation. At this time, they will also meet with a living donor advocate whose role is to protect and promote the rights and interests of each living donor.

If the potential living donor wishes to proceed, they undergo a careful and thorough evaluation process to determine if they are eligible for donation. This phase includes testing, imaging and consultations at IU Health.

If approved to donate, a surgery date is scheduled that works for the donor and recipient. The donors will return to the hospital less than a week before surgery for pre-admission testing and final consultations.

Living liver donation involves removing a portion of a donor’s liver and then using it to replace a diseased liver in the recipient. While a living liver donor faces the typical risks of surgery, the liver regenerates and returns to full function within a month. Donors are admitted to the hospital early the morning of surgery. The surgery is 6-8 hours long.

After the donation surgery, liver donors are monitored in the Transplant Intensive Care Unit for 1-2 days and then moved to the Organ Transplant Unit. The care team works closely with the donor to manage and minimize post-operative pain. Donors will remain in the hospital as long as necessary but are usually discharged within one week after surgery.

Follow-up appointments are scheduled with the transplant surgeon about two weeks and four weeks after donation.

Donors may be able to return to work after four to six weeks. They must avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activities for 8 weeks. For these reasons, support from family or friends is necessary for a successful recovery after living liver donation.

Living donors are followed by a transplant hepatologist for 2 years after donation.

Your Care Team

Donor safety is our priority, and our team will work to ensure this and to provide support to you throughout the donation process. As a donor, you will interact with several team members to ensure all your needs are met.

Living Liver Donation Surgery & Recovery

Living liver donation involves removing a portion of a donor’s liver and then using it to replace a diseased liver in the recipient. While a living liver donor faces the typical risks of surgery, the liver regenerates and returns to full function within a month. Donors are admitted to the hospital early the morning of surgery. The surgery is 6-8 hours long.

After the donation surgery, liver donors are monitored in the Transplant Intensive Care Unit for 1-2 days and then moved to the Organ Transplant Unit. The care team works closely with the donor to manage and minimize post-operative pain. Donors will remain in the hospital as long as necessary but are usually discharged within one week after surgery.

Follow-up appointments are scheduled with the transplant surgeon about two weeks and four weeks after donation.

Donors may be able to return to work after four to six weeks. They must avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activities for 8 weeks. For these reasons, support from family or friends is necessary for a successful recovery after living liver donation.

Living donors are followed by a transplant hepatologist for 2 years after donation.

Your Care Team

Donor safety is our priority, and our team will work to ensure this and to provide support to you throughout the donation process. As a donor, you will interact with several team members to ensure all your needs are met.

Other members of your care team include the following:

  • Liver Transplant Surgeon
  • Transplant Hepatologist
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Psychiatrist or Psychologist
  • Living Donor Transplant Coordinator
  • Living Donor Advocate (LDA)
  • Transplant Social Worker
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Pharmacist
  • Financial Coordinator

Questions About the Decision to Donate

You have the right to withdraw your participation as a donor at any time during the process. Information about your medical evaluation, diagnostic test results, etc., will not be discussed with the potential transplant recipient. It is up to you what information you want to share with the recipient.

A financial coordinator works with your recipient’s insurance so the donation process will be at no cost to you, the donor.

Donors are responsible for costs such as travel, lodging and time off work. A living donor advocate and social worker will help you identify possible assistance resources and understand all financial risks for you to consider before donation.

To determine if living donation is safe for you and if you are compatible with the recipient, imaging, tests and consultations will be ordered for you. Some of these may be done locally, but most are required to be performed at IU Health by members of the multidisciplinary transplant team.

Depending on results, further testing may be required. All efforts will be made to schedule multiple appointments on the same day but will likely require more than one trip to IU Health.

During recovery, a support system is very important for all living donors. Expected recovery time at home is 4-6 weeks but could be longer depending on the type of work you perform due to lifting restrictions.

You should identify who will bring you home from the hospital and stay with you full-time for at least the first few days at home. For up to 8 weeks, you will need assistance with strenuous household duties and childcare due to lifting restrictions.

Living Liver Donation Resources