Living Donor Liver Transplant

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UCLA is one of only a few programs on the West Coast to offer living donor liver transplantation. Since 1993, we have performed more than 100 living donor procedures for adult liver transplant and pediatric liver transplant patients. 

What Is Living Donor Liver Transplant?

In living donor liver transplant, surgeons remove a portion of a person's liver and transplant it into the patient. Typically, the living donor is a relative or close friend.

Living donor transplant recipients undergo the same evaluation and approval process for transplant as traditional liver transplant recipients.

The living donor transplantation procedure generally follows several steps:

  • Together, the patient, donor and surgery team choose a date for the surgery.
  • The donor surgery takes place simultaneously with the recipient transplant.
  • Surgeons remove a portion of the donor's liver at the same time they remove the recipient's failing liver.
  • The surgery for the donor takes approximately five to six hours.
  • The recipient surgery is longer, taking approximately eight to 10 hours.
  • We observe the donor in the ICU for approximately 24 hours. Donors usually return home within a week, and return to work in two months.
  • The recipient stays longer to care for other medical needs.

After the surgery, the donor's liver and the partial transplanted liver both grow back to normal size.

Why Choose UCLA for Living Donor Liver Transplant?

Our extensive experience in liver transplantation and liver surgery makes us a trusted choice for living donor transplant. We offer:

  • Expertise in transplant and liver surgery: Our team provides expert surgical and medical care for living donor transplant pairs. Our surgeons offer unparalleled expertise in the liver resection, or partial liver surgery, that is part of the living donor process.
  • Skilled care: Before, during and after transplant, our specialized living donor transplant coordinators provide comprehensive care and support for donors and recipients.
  • Adult and pediatric care in one facility: Few facilities offer pediatric care and adult care in the same location. At UCLA, the living donor and recipient stay in the same hospital and receive care from the same team. This arrangement makes recovery easier and less stressful for both children and adults.
  • Transition to adult care: We care for all of our transplant patients before and after your transplant - from childhood through adulthood, in one facility. Read more about our process for the transition to adult care.

Living Donor Liver Transplant in Pediatric Patients

Surgeons perform living donor liver transplant more often in children than in adults, for several important reasons.

The living donor procedure for young liver transplant patients has several benefits:

  • Children can benefit from a liver transplant without waiting for a pediatric donor.
  • A living donor allows patients to receive a liver transplant at the best time for their individual needs, since the procedure is scheduled ahead of time.
  • The surgery uses only a small part of an adult liver. Leaving the bulk of the liver intact makes the risk lower, and recovery easier, for the adult living donor.

 Learn more about pediatric liver transplant.

Living Donor Liver Transplant in Adults

Living donor liver transplant is less common in adults. The procedure's benefits for adult patients include the following:

  • Patients' options for transplant are expanded, because patients do not have to wait for a deceased donor who is a good match.
  • The surgery can be performed at an optimal time for the patient.
  • Some patients may be able to receive a transplant at an earlier stage in their disease, when recovery is somewhat easier.

For adults receiving a living donor transplant, surgeons must determine the correct size of liver to transplant. With more than 20 years of experience with the procedure, we offer excellent outcomes for both donors and recipients. Learn more about adult liver transplant.

The resection of a portion of the liver from the donor is a major surgery. The donor must be willing to complete the evaluation process and follow up after surgery. We offer education sessions for donors and recipients, and we encourage family and caregivers to attend to learn more. Our patient education information offers more background on what to expect.