At Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our doctors are some of the most experienced liver transplant specialists in the country.
Our team has a long track record of successfully performing highly technical transplant and other liver surgeries. We guide living liver donors through the liver donation process with expertise and compassion.
Living Liver Donor Surgery: What to Expect
Liver donor surgery takes place in our dedicated transplant operating room, where your entire care team is trained in transplant care. You will be cared for before and after your surgery on our transplant floor. You will be given a mild sedative before surgery begins, to help put you at ease.
An anesthesiologist administers general anesthesia, to keep you safe, comfortable and completely unaware throughout the procedure. Liver donation surgery generally takes around five to seven hours.
For this procedure, a surgical team:
- Makes an incision under the rib cage
- Removes the gall bladder (in surgeries involving the right liver lobe)
- Disconnects necessary blood vessels and bile ducts
- Removes a lobe (or portion) of the liver
- Closes all open incisions with internal stitches that eventually dissolve
Our specialists rely on their decades of experience to determine how much (and which section) of the liver we need to remove to protect your health and ensure optimal results for the transplant recipient. Immediately after we remove the donor organ, a separate team of specialists prepares it for transplantation into the recipient.
Liver Donation Recovery
After surgery, our care team monitors you closely, making sure we manage your pain effectively so you feel minimal discomfort. Patients can expect to stay in the hospital for five to seven days following surgery.
Our living donor specialists will be in close contact with you in the days and weeks after surgery. We track all aspects of your health and recovery. We will ask you to undergo regular blood work, so we can measure your liver function. Our doctors will also monitor your incision to ensure your wound heals as it should.
Life After Liver Donation Surgery: Your Follow-Up Care
Your liver starts regenerating cells almost immediately. Approximately two months after donor surgery, your liver should be back to its full size and function. Every donor’s recovery is unique, but most liver donors are back to normal between four and six weeks after surgery.
We provide donors with a wealth of information and resources after surgery. Our living liver donor coordinator will follow you for the rest of your life. This professional is your resource and guide for any questions or concerns you have after liver donation. We help you prioritize your health and maximize your liver function during your recovery and afterward.
Eventually, we transition your routine care to your primary care physician or liver specialist. Our team is available for the rest of your life to answer questions or respond to concerns.
For more information on the benefits of living liver donation and what the donation process entails, see how to become a liver donor.
For more information about the living liver donor program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.