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Liver donor health

This information does not cover detailed medical questions; it is designed to give you general information about donating a liver based on the advice of medical professionals and currently accepted guidance in the UK, from the research that is available to them.

Your healthcare team will discuss risk with you in more detail and on an individual basis, particularly if there are certain concerns about you or your recipient because of your lifestyle, medical history or demographic, as risk must be considered on an individual basis based upon your individual circumstances.

It is also important to note that research in this area is continually evolving and it is not possible to cover every eventuality. Not every possible consequence of donation has been fully researched.

Are there any risks for living liver donors?

All operations carry some risk and donating part of your liver is no different. There is a small risk of death for the donor: this is estimated at 1 person in every 200 (for right lobe donation) or 1 in 500 (for left lobe donation). Most complications are minor and include infections (e.g. chest, wound or urine) and, rarely, bleeding, bile leaks or blood clots. There is also the risk of the liver transplant procedure failing and this may cause emotional distress if things do not work out as expected. It is very important for you to consider all these risks and discuss them with your coordinator when you are deciding if living donation is right for you. The risks will be explained to you in more detail as you go through the process.

Are there any long-term risks?

It is possible to live a long and healthy life after liver donation, but this does not protect you from other medical problems that you would have developed in any case. Risk is relative to the person donating and to individual circumstances and we know that some groups of people may need special consideration. In the long term you will be followed up by the transplant team and this will include annual checks and blood tests.

Are you at risk of developing liver failure?

The risk of developing liver failure with left lateral segment donation is very low; however this risk increases with donation of a larger volume of liver such as the right liver lobe. The assessment process will carefully consider the volume of your remaining liver to minimise this risk. If your medical team feel that you are at an increased risk they will clearly advise you against donation.

Will it shorten your lifespan?

It is important to be aware that research is ongoing into the effects of living donation and we do not yet have a completely full picture. Not every possible consequence of donation has yet been fully researched. Living liver donation will only be considered in very fit and healthy individuals. Donors will be carefully followed up in the long term and this has been proven to be beneficial to the donors.

Will you have to change your lifestyle after donating?

No. However, it is important that all patients who have under gone major abdominal surgery avoid weight gain, smoking and excessive alcohol intake. You should be able to lead a normal, healthy life and return to all your normal activities.

Will donating a liver lobe affect your ability to have children?

You can have children after donating part of your liver, although we advise women against trying to become pregnant for at least 12 months following donation. There is not much data available about pregnancy after liver donation but there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of complications during pregnancy; we know that many previous donors have had successful pregnancies. A man’s fertility will not be affected.

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