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Living Liver Donation

We were one of the first in the nation to offer transplant surgery between two living adults, which is commonly called living organ donation. We’ve performed more than 100 adult-to-adult living donor liver transplants since 1996.

What happens during living liver transplant surgery?

In living liver donor surgery, the donor and the recipient are placed in side-by-side operating rooms. A surgeon removes a part of the donor's liver, typically the right half. This donated segment of the liver is then immediately placed in the recipient in the next operating room.

The remaining part of the donor's liver is sufficient to maintain normal body functions. The recipient receives a large enough segment of the donor liver to maintain body functions as well.

During approximately the next two months, the remaining and transplanted parts of the donor liver grow to normal size, providing normal long-term liver function for the donor and the recipient.

Can I be a living liver donor?

Living donors must be over the age of 18 and under the age of 55. Potential donors must be in excellent medical and psychological health. Most donors are family members (spouse, parent, sibling, son, daughter, nephew, niece) of the recipient or a very close personal friend.

If you've decided to be a living liver donor, a series of psychological and medical testing must be performed to determine if you are an eligible candidate.

First phase of testing for living liver donation

  • Medical history and physical examination
  • Blood tests (your blood type must be compatible with the donor, but does not have to be an exact match)
  • Chest X-ray and EKG

These tests usually require two to three doctor visits. It is preferable that this testing is done at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver by members of our liver transplant team. However, potential donors from outside of Colorado may undergo this initial phase of testing in their local community, provided their physician is in consult with our transplant team.

If these initial tests suggest that you would be a suitable donor, then another series of tests will be done.

Second phase of testing for living liver donation

  • Evaluation and discussion of the liver surgery with a transplant surgeon
  • Psychological evaluation
  • MRI scan of the liver (which is similar to a CAT scan)

If all of these tests show that you are a suitable donor, the donor surgery and the liver transplant may be performed at the earliest appropriate time for you and the recipient. This can be as short as a few hours or as long as several weeks after you complete the evaluation.

Frequently asked questions: living liver donation

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