A stained glass scene of a liver set among a flowering background

Living Donor Liver Transplants for Hepatitis C Patients

Your liver is an essential, life-sustaining organ. If your liver is damaged or diseased, this can cause compromised liver function and liver failure, which may threaten a person’s life. Hepatitis C and liver damage from hepatitis C, cirrhosis, and liver cancer are common reasons for liver transplants in the United States.

Liver transplant options

Liver transplant offer two options:

  • A traditional liver transplant from someone who has recently died and opted to donate their liver.
  • A new option being used is transplant from a living person willing to donate a portion of their liver.

Traditional liver transplant

If a person’s liver has very low function from liver damage, or if they have liver cancer, they may choose to be evaluated by a liver specialist and a liver transplant team. They then receive a MELD score, with a number indicating their level of need for a liver while they wait for a transplant.

Certain criteria are required for a liver to be the best match for the patient. The wait time for a liver transplant can sometimes be lengthy. When a deceased donor’s liver becomes available and is the right match for the patient, the entire liver may be used for transplant.

Living donor transplant

The ultimate gift of life is from living donors who donate a portion of specific organs in order to save the life of someone who needs a transplant to live.

Living donor liver transplants are becoming a more widespread option that has advanced through the years. A living donor’s liver is tested to make sure it’s healthy and compatible to the patient. A section of their liver is transplanted to a patient who needs a liver transplant to live.

The liver regenerates new liver tissue and restores to normal liver size and function for the donor and patient within a short time of weeks to months. Specific criteria must be met to ensure the liver is a good match for the liver transplant recipient.

The American Transplant Foundation explains that in the United States from 1988 to 2018, 160,722 liver transplants were done. In the US, each year there are over 6,000 lives lost due to organ shortage. Over 1,400 of these are on a liver transplant waiting list. In 2017, 367 liver transplants were made possible by living donors.1

Advantages of living liver donation

The American Transplant Foundation states these advantages of living liver donation:1

  • No waiting periods. The recipient can obtain a donation before they have liver failure.
  • Surgery can be planned at a good time for both the donor and the recipient.
  • Compared to a liver from a deceased donor, a liver from a living donor typically lasts longer.

Requirements for living donors

Typical requirements include:2,3

  • The donor must be between 18 to 60 years old.
  • Must be healthy without major medical or mental illness.
  • Must be a non-smoker or abstain from smoking for up to 6 weeks before transplant.
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Make sure they understand and able to follow orders before and after transplant.
  • Donor and patient’s blood must match.
  • Donor and patient’s body size needs to be similar.
  • Donor must hae normal liver anatomy and blood vessels.
  • Must go through a series of tests - typically blood, and radiology tests, and a possible liver biopsy, along with understanding the risks involved from living donor surgery.

Living liver transplant surgeries are becoming more available throughout the country. If you’re interested in living donor transplants, talk to your physician about the risks and benefits for your condition.

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