What is a living-donor liver transplant?

Many people have heard of a living person donating 1 of their 2 kidneys to someone who needs a kidney transplant. But not everyone has heard of a living person donating for liver transplantation.

The liver is an organ that can regenerate — as little as 25% of a liver can grow into a whole liver again. This makes it possible for surgeons to remove part of a healthy liver from a living person and transplant it into someone whose liver is failing. Both people can go on to have healthy liver function.

The surgeries are done on the same day and are timed so the donated liver tissue is outside the body as briefly as possible.

What is your experience with living-donor liver transplants at Seattle Children’s?

Seattle Children’s performs living-donor liver transplants for children, handling all aspects of the child’s care. Our first transplant of this type was in 1999, and we have completed several more since then.

We partner with University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), which handles care of the person donating — including careful evaluation, information about safety and risks and the donor’s surgery. It is important for the person donating to have their own separate care team.

UWMC has the only living-donor program in the Northwest approved by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Who is a candidate for a living-donor liver transplant?

Before a child can be considered for a living-donor liver transplant, they must:

There are many other factors to consider, like:

  • How sick your child is
  • How stable they are medically
  • How urgently they need a transplant

Each child’s situation is different. The team at Seattle Children’s can talk with you about your child’s specific situation and whether a living-donor transplant is an option for your child.

Who can be a living donor?

Living donors must be adults who volunteer freely and meet strict health and other requirements. If someone volunteers to be a living donor for a child in our care, we refer them to Liver Care and Transplantation Services at UWMC to learn more.

UNOS also provides information for people thinking about living donation.