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Liver Transplantation

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Where Does a Liver for a Transplant Come From? continued...

The donor, who may be a blood relative, spouse, or friend, will have extensive medical and psychological evaluations to ensure the lowest possible risk. Blood type and body size are critical factors in determining who is an appropriate donor.

Recipients for the living donor transplant must be active on the transplant waiting list. Their health must also be stable enough to undergo transplantation with excellent chances of success.

Deceased Donor:

In deceased donor liver transplants, the donor may be a victim of an accident or head injury. The donor's heart is still beating, but the brain has stopped functioning. Such a person is considered legally dead, because his or her brain has permanently and irreversibly stopped working. At this point, the donor is usually in an intensive-care unit.

The identity of a deceased donor and circumstances surrounding the person's death are kept confidential.

Screening for Liver Transplant Donors

Hospitals will evaluate all potential liver transplant donors for evidence of liver disease, alcohol or drug abuse, cancer, or infection. Donors will also be tested for hepatitis, AIDS, and other infections. If this screening does not reveal problems with the liver, donors and recipients are matched according to blood type and body size. Age, race, and sex are not considered.

The transplant team will discuss transplantation options with you at a pre-transplant evaluation, or you can contact the transplant team for more information.

What Happens When They Find a Liver Transplant Match?

When a liver has been identified, a transplant coordinator will contact you. Make sure that you do not eat or drink anything once you have been called to the hospital. The transplant coordinator will notify you of any additional instructions. When you arrive at the hospital, additional blood tests, an electrocardiogram, and a chest X-ray will generally be taken before the operation. You also may meet with the anesthesiologist and a surgical resident. If the donor liver is found to be acceptable, you will proceed with the transplant. If not, you will be sent home to continue waiting.

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