Types of Living-Donor Liver Transplants

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 20, 2020

If you decide to give part of your liver to someone who needs a new one, talk to your doctor about the different ways this can be done. There are several types of living-donor transplants, but in each case, you'll be giving someone with a damaged liver a chance to grow a new one -- and yours will grow back, too.

Directed Liver Transplants

Most living donors give part of their liver to someone they know. It could be either a relative or a friend.

If you're giving to a family member, you could be related to the person because you're their:

  • Parent
  • Child (over age 18)
  • Sister or brother
  • Half-sister or half-brother
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Niece or nephew
  • Cousin

If you're a "nonrelated donor," you might be giving part of your liver to your:

  • Spouse or partner
  • Mother- or father-in-law
  • Friend
  • Co-worker


Nondirected Liver Transplants

A small number of living donors give part of their liver to someone they've never met. You might decide to do this simply because you want to help another person.

Part of your liver will go to someone who is on the national organ donation waiting list. You don't need to meet the person who's getting the new liver, either before surgery or afterward. You don't even need to learn their name. It's up to you. Sometimes, donors and recipients decide to meet, but others prefer not to.

Paired Donation

This might be an option for you if you want to donate part of your liver to someone you know, but you aren't a good match for that person.

For example, let's say you want to be a donor for your brother, but your blood types don't match. If that's the case, your doctor will help you find two other people in a similar situation -- one donor and one person who needs a new liver. The donor will have your brother's blood type, and the person who needs the new liver will have your blood type.

You basically swap. You give part of your liver to the person whose blood type matches yours, and the other donor gives part of their liver to your brother. It's an arrangement that works for all four of you.

Domino Transplant

You can think of a domino transplant as a version of the expression "pay it forward" -- repaying a good deed by helping another person. Here's how it works.

Let's say you have a metabolic disease like amyloidosis. In that condition, a protein called amyloid builds up in and damages organs like your heart and kidneys. Because your liver makes amyloid, you might need a liver transplant to treat it.

During a domino transplant, if you're a young person with a disease like amyloidosis, you get a healthy liver from a donor who has died. Then, your liver goes to an older person with liver cancer who needs a new liver. The liver you gave them may eventually cause them to get amyloidosis, but it won't happen for a long time. The disease can take 20 years to develop. In the meantime, they'll have a healthy life.

How to Find the Right Liver Match

Doctors do tests to match someone who needs a liver with the right donor. Whether you're a donor or recipient, you'll have to answer a lot of questions about your medical history. You'll also get tests to check your blood and tissue types to make sure you are a good match.

WebMD Medical Reference



Allegheny Health Network: "Transplant Surgery Living Donor Facts."

Columbia University Medical Center: "Living Donor Liver Transplantation FAQs."

Jefferson Health: "Domino Liver Transplant."

Mayo Clinic: "Amyloidosis Definition," "Liver Transplant."

UC Davis Health System: "Matching and Compatibility."

UNOS Transplant Living: "Non-Related," "Paired Donation," "Related."

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Living Non-Directed Organ Donation.

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