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Donating Part of Liver Relatively Safe

Largest Study to Date Shows 38% of Donors Suffer Complications – Most Treatable
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 24, 2006 (Boston) -- People considering sharing their liver with an ailing relative or friend can worry a bit less, say doctors who found that living donor liver-transplantation is relatively safe.

The largest North American study to date to look at how people who donate part of their livers fare after the procedure shows almost two in three (62%) suffer no complications, reports R. Mark Ghobrial, MD, professor of surgery at UCLA.

And the vast majority of complications that do occur are treatable, he says.

In the study, 2% of donors had life-threatening, lasting disabilities. One died of medical complications 21 days after the procedure.

The research was presented here at World Transplant Congress 2006.

Shortage of Donated Livers

There has long been a critical shortage of cadaver livers for transplantation. As of July 4, 2006, more than 17,500 Americans with failing livers were waiting for a new organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. More than 4,000 of them have been waiting five years or longer.

This shortage led to development of living-donor liver transplantation, first performed in the United States in the late 1980s.

In the procedure, a healthy donor -- usually a blood relative -- undergoes an operation to remove a portion of his liver for the recipient.

Part of a blood vessel in the leg is also removed to connect the donated liver portion to the recipient.

The donor may have to remain in the hospital a week or longer as the liver begins to heal and regenerate itself. Full regeneration generally takes six to eight weeks.

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