FAQ for Donors

Since an individual has just one liver, how can a living person donate the organ?

In Living Donor Liver Transplant only a portion of the liver, not the whole organ, is removed for transplantation. The removed portion is replaced with new, fully-functional tissue in six to eight weeks. Donors experience very few complications. The transplant team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford (LPCH) and Stanford Health Care has been performing living donor transplants since 1995 with excellent results.

Who can donate a liver?

A suitable donor is an individual who is in good physical and mental health, is older than 18 and younger than 55. Additionally they should be free from:

  • HIV infection
  • Chronic viral hepatitis
  • Active alcoholism or heavy alcohol use
  • Psychiatric illness under treatment 
  • History of malignancy
  • Heart and lung disease requiring medications
  • Diabetes mellitus of greater than seven years’ duration
  • Any other serious chronic medical illness

Other factors are also important in selecting a donor:

  • The donor should have an established relationship with the donor. Some examples include relatives, both close and distant, and close family friends. We do not accept anonymous donors.
  • The donor must be mentally competent and freely willing to donate. Potential donors who are believed or known to be coerced must be excluded.
  • No financial gain can arise from the donation. It is against Federal law to buy or sell organs.
  • The decision to be a donor should be made after carefully considering and understanding the procedure and accepting its risks and complications.
  • The donor must have a compatible blood type with the recipient.
  • The donor must have medical insurance and a primary care doctor, which they have seen in the last 3 months.
  • Donors must be willing and able to comply with required follow-up after donation.

What evaluations does a living donor candidate have to undergo before donation?

Initially, the donor candidate will be asked to complete an online medical questionnaire and send us a copy of his or her blood type. If the blood type is appropriate and the details of the questionnaire indicate suitability, the candidate will be scheduled to come to Stanford Hospital for evaluation.

The living donor evaluation is extensive and takes an average of two days to complete. This consists of:

  • Blood tests, including liver function tests and infectious disease testing for HIV and Hepatitis B & C
  • EKG and Chest X-ray
  • 3-Dimentional MRI or CT scan to look at the anatomy and size of the liver. This will help us determine whether the portion being donated will fit the recipient
  • Dietary Consult
  • Social work consult
  • Independent Donor Advocate consult which is a thorough screening to make sure the candidate understands the risks of the procedure, is donating from his or her free will, and has adequate support for after surgery
  • Hepatology Consult
  • Transplant Surgery Consult
  • Other consults as deemed necessary by the transplant team

After the tests and consultations are completed, a committee of transplant team members will discuss the medical and social details of the evaluation and decide on the suitability of the donor. The Living Donor Coordinator will advise the donor of any testing results and the decision of the transplant team. If the candidate is not selected as a donor, he or she can contact the team for additional explanation. All information concerning the donor is kept in strict confidence and will not be disclosed to the recipient.

What kind of a postoperative period can the donor expect?

The donor usually spends five to seven days in the hospital. Most patients are up and out of bed (with assistance) by the second postoperative day. The donor usually needs to stay off work and suspend usual home activities for approximately four to six weeks after surgery, depending on the course of the recovery.

What is the required follow-up after donation?

After discharge, the living donor will be seen in clinic within 2 weeks for a general post-op check. After this check, the donor will be seen again at 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after donation. This is both a Stanford requirement and a UNOS requirement, and will include a physician visit and new blood tests.

To learn more about living donation, please contact the Living Donor Coordinator at (650) 724-5672. Become a living liver transplant donor >