What Makes a Good Donor?
|Linda Wood meeting with a potential donor|
In addition, the ideal donor:
- Has some sort of relationship with the potential recipient: This doesn’t necessarily need to be a family member, but there needs to be some sort of connection.
- Is in the age range of 21 to 50, although potential donors can be slightly younger or slightly older on a case-by-case basis
- Does not smoke at all or drink much
- Is not overweight: An overweight donor could complicate the surgery or have a liver donor graph that has too much fat in it. However, donors who are mildly overweight can participate in a weight loss program to become eligible.
- Does not have any medical issues, such as diabetes or bad hypertension
Is It Safe?Any type of surgery has some risk involved in it. We do an extremely careful evaluation to make sure that the donor is a good candidate and to minimize any potential risks and complications.
|Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Olthoff|
A lot of experience is needed in a center to determine who can be a good donor, who can be a good recipient, and when is the best time to do the transplant. It’s been recognized that you have to do these on a regular basis, have done them for a long time, and keep doing them to have excellent outcomes. Penn is the busiest center in the region and was the first transplant program in the region to perform an adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant.
“In donors, the outcomes are 100 percent,” states liver transplant nurse coordinator, Linda Wood, BSN, RN.
Possible donors should also be aware that donating your liver should in no way affect your long-term health. After surgery and recovery, you’ll go back to normal. You’ll be able to be active, to get pregnant, and live a long life. You should expect however to be out of work for at least six weeks, and potentially longer depending on the nature of your job.
How Exactly Does the Surgery Work?The surgery involves taking out anywhere from about 25 percent of your liver if you’re donating a small part to a child, to about 60 percent if you’re donating your whole right lobe to another adult. What’s involved with the actual surgery is an incision that is the shape of a hockey stick, or straight down the upper part of your abdomen if it’s a smaller piece of liver.
“The beauty of the liver is that it’s made up of sections, so we are able to just take a portion of the liver, with its blood vessels and bile ducts, and leave the part remaining in the donor so that person who donates has good liver remaining and is also able to donate a good piece of liver,” explains medical director of Living Donor Liver Transplantation, David Goldberg, MD, MSCE.
Then they have to carefully cut that piece of liver down the middle, essentially going through the liver itself and preserving all the appropriate blood vessels. At the same time that this is happening, the recipient is having their bad liver taken out.
Once the dissection is completed on the donor, they take out that piece of liver. It’s flushed with the special solution and brought to the recipient room to be put in. From there, the surgeons close up all of the vessels that they had to divide to take the liver out, make sure there’s no bleeding, confirm that the bile duct is okay, close the incision and then finally take the donor to the recovery room.
The actual surgery itself lasts several hours, but donors and recipients are both in the recovery room for a short time and then in the hospital for about five to seven days afterwards.
Living liver donation is a life-saving endeavor, and we are happy to assist a donor in this journey to donation and beyond.