Why Living Liver Donors Are in Demand

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 14, 2021

If you need a liver transplant, it could take quite some time. The average wait in the U.S. for a new liver is more than 300 days. One way to speed things up? Get a new liver from a living donor instead of a deceased one.

About 14,000 people in the U.S. are now on the list for a liver transplant. Most of them are waiting for liver transplants from someone who has died, often in an accident. In order for a deceased person's liver to become available for transplant, they must have decided in advance to be an organ donor, or their family must give permission.

Not only is the list of people waiting for new livers far greater than the number of livers available from deceased donors, you also can't predict when a transplant will happen. Finding a family member or acquaintance willing to be a living donor can help with both these issues.

A living donor donates only part of their liver. The remaining portion of liver left in their body regrows. The donor should eventually have a liver that works normally and is full size. The same is true if you are the person receiving the new liver.

Benefits of Living Donor Transplants

If you need a new liver and you're able to connect with a living donor for your transplant, you can schedule surgery that is not too far in the future and that's convenient for you both.

A shorter waiting time can be lifesaving, since it cuts down on how long your body has to live with a failing liver. Also, by taking yourself off the deceased donor list, you cut the wait time for others who need a liver transplant.

A liver from a living donor is transplanted very quickly after coming out of the donor's body, so it stays healthy. Doctors don't have to take measures to preserve the liver, the way they would if it came from a deceased donor.

The risk of complications after transplant is lower with a liver from a living donor. These livers also tend to last longer in the recipient's body. This raises your odds of long-term success with your transplant.

A living donor is someone who has gone through specific testing, so you'll know the new liver is a good fit. For example, the donor has:

  • Blood testing to be sure blood type and tissues are a good match
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Evaluation by a liver specialist and surgeon
  • Chest X-ray and EKG to check lung and heart health
  • Imaging of the liver

You'll also know your donor's medical history. It's not always possible to learn the medical history of a deceased donor.

From the donor's point of view, the emotional and mental benefits of being a living donor are important to consider. You'll have the satisfaction of being a lifesaver to someone in need.

Show Sources


Columbia University Irving Medical Center: "Liver Transplant Waiting List," "Living Donor Liver Transplantation FAQs."

American Liver Foundation: "Liver Transplant."

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: "Living Liver Donor Transplant."

Mayo Clinic: "Living-donor transplant."

Cleveland Clinic: "Living Donor Liver Transplant: Risks / Benefits."

Stanford Health Care: "Livers from Living Donors."

Cincinnati Children's: "Living Liver Donation -- What You Need to Know."

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