Living Donor Liver Program
Mass General has one of the most active and experienced living donor liver transplant programs in New England. Through living donor liver transplantation, a family member or friend donates a portion of his/her liver, allowing patients to receive a transplant without a prolonged waiting period. The donors healthy liver grows back to full size within a few weeks.
Donating a portion of your liver to another individual is a great act of kindness and can be life-saving for the recipient. A liver transplant is a complex surgery for both the donor and the recipient. In order to effectively plan for the surgery and ensure the best possible outcomes, the Mass General liver transplant team evaluates living donors in a three-part process. Potential donors may choose to discontinue their evaluation at any point in the process, for any reason, with complete confidentiality. Typically, the Transplant Center and the recipient’s insurance will cover the cost of the evaluation and surgery.
Benefits Of Living Kidney Donations
Basically, there are two types of kidney donors, deceased and living. The rise in popularity of living kidney donors is because it has proved to be the best option for those needing a new kidney. It, to a large extent, eliminates the long waiting period, which can even stretch to years when on a national waiting list. Kidney donations are the most common living organ donations, with surgeries being performed since the 1950s.
Living kidney donations are safe and the donor can lead a normal life as the remaining kidney takes on the role of both, with ease, as surprisingly the body does not need two kidneys to function normally. Further, donating a kidney does not in any way increase the donorÃ¢s risk of getting kidney disease or any other health issues such as diabetes.
Thanks to the advancements in the medical field, the donors no longer needs to be related to the receiver, in order to donate. Today, one in four living organ donors are not biologically related to the recipient, which means that those in need of a new kidney have a higher chance at receiving one, quicker.
Living donations are divided into two categories:
Directed donations with specific recipient in mind and is usually between two known parties such as friends and relations
Non-directed donations no specific recipient named, instead the kidney is matched with someone in need
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Testing Involved In The Living Donor Evaluation Process
The following process is used to determine if someone can be a donor. This is a general description of the testing process, and may vary from center to center:
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How To Ask For A Living Kidney Donation
Lori stands beside the organ donation message she wrote on her own vehicle. She got a kidney from a donor in March.
Being diagnosed with kidney failure is no picnic. Medications, dialysis, the physical and emotional exhaustion its not a burden you would put on anyone.
Its all the more difficult if you move into end-stage kidney disease and need a kidney transplant. The best option is to receive one from a living donor, because theres a greater likelihood of a successful outcome.
But thats a HUGE ask. In fact, the thought of asking someone for their organs is so overwhelming that more than half of all people in need of a kidney transplant dont even try. They dont ask one person.
But your friends and family members are often eager to help you spread the word, or consider donation themselves.
We want to help you get started, so weve put together this checklist with help from our transplant and organ donation experts:
Arranging For The Donation
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Finding A Kidney Donor
Once your doctor has determined that youre a good candidate for a kidney transplant, youll need to be matched with a kidney donor who is compatible with you in tissue and blood type. There are several ways to go about finding a kidney donor.
How Can I Ask Someone To Be My Living Donor
Talk to your friends and family about your kidney failure and need for a donor. While you might not be comfortable asking people to donate, it may be helpful to make people aware of your need for a donor. That way, if someone is interested in pursuing donation, they can ask for more information.
Some people also decide to share their story and tell coworkers, community organizations, social groups, people who belong to their place of worship, or local newspapers or magazines that they need a transplant. Many people are also turning to social media to share their story.
Educate your family and friends about kidney transplantation and donation. You can contact NKF Cares, our Patient Help Line, at toll-free 855.653.2273 or email to request free educational brochures about donation to share with your friends or family members.
How Can A Microsite Help Kidney Donors Or Potential Donors
Microsites automatically link to your transplant centers automated donor intake system, which makes for an easy screening process for your potential donors. This is important, because the easier the screening process, the more likely a person is to complete it.
Your microsite also includes information on the support and protections available to people who donate through the National Kidney Registry. The NKRs Donor Shield program offers a wide range of protections, including reimbursement for lost wages and travel costs due to donation, which removes some the most common barriers to donation.
The donor intake system attached to your microsite also allows potential donors to speak to someone who has already donated. These donor mentors can explain the process and answer any questions the potential donor may have. Learn more about Donor Shield.
Living Kidney Donation Is Safe
If you are healthy, donating a kidney wont make you more likely to get sick or have major health problems. Like any surgery, the procedure does have some risks. But overall, living kidney donation is safe. In most cases, donating a kidney will not not raise your risk of kidney disease, diabetes, or other health problems.
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What Transplant Centers Are Saying
This book is a tremendous resource for hopeful transplant candidates. We purchased several hundred copies for our annual nephrology conference to get this information disseminated to dialysis professionals. Now we need to figure out a way to get this book into the hands of all our waitlisted patients. Best thing in print on this subject! Michelle Sturges, BSN, RN, CCTC, Living Donor Transplant Coordinator, UC Davis Transplant Center
A rare gemtheres nothing like it out there! Ive highlighted just about every page. Ive shared the book with our transplant coordinators and support staff, and theyre using it too! The book includes conversation tools and template letters that take the heavy lifting out of helping patients find potential donors. Its become an invaluable go to resource for our transplant center.-Charlie Thomas, LCSW, ACSW, FNKF, Social Worker, Transplant Institute Banner University Medical Center -Phoenix
Tips To Find A Living Kidney Or Liver Donor
It can be hard to ask for help, even in times of great need. We worry about being rejected, relinquishing control, or showing vulnerability. Its just human nature.
So, imagine asking someone to donate a piece of themselves, literally, to help you. It takes a special kind of courage for patients in need of a transplant to ask friends, family, or the universe at large to donate a kidney or part of their liver to save their life.
But once they take that leap of faith and make The Big Ask, patients are often surprised by how many of their family members, friends, and even strangers are willing to consider the gift of living organ donation.
Many people are familiar with living kidney donation when a person with two healthy kidneys donates one for transplantation. Fewer have heard of living liver donation. The liver is the only human organ that can regenerate a donor can donate more than half of their liver, and it will regrow within a few months.
Living donation can spare patients with kidney or liver failure from years of waiting on the transplant list and help them avoid complex treatment such as dialysis. As such, living donation is becoming more common more than 6,500 living donor transplants were performed in 2021, an increase of 14.2% over the year before.
Each of these lifesaving procedures started with a vulnerable conversation.
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Tips For Sharing Information On Social Media And Websites
- Living Kidney Donors Network is a website that can help you develop a campaign to get the word out that you need a kidney transplant.
- UNOS Ambassador Become a UNOS Ambassador by ordering a UNOS Ambassador Kit. The kit includes print and video items that you can use to educate your community about organ transplant and donation.
- Most donors know the patient ahead of time, so tell friends and family first before reaching out to strangers
- Control your Facebook privacy settings so that you only inform those who are friends with you
- Dont put names or phone numbers of the transplant center staff in your post
- Ask your transplant center about how possible donors should contact them
Be careful. Large media campaigns may attract possible donors who wont go through with the donation, which can be very hard on you and your loved ones. These possible donors also use resources in the transplant program that could be used to screen other healthy donors.
What If The Donor Is Not A Match
When compatibility testing shows that the donor is not a match to the recipient there are other options to consider so that the recipient might not have to wait for a deceased donor organ to become available.
- In some cases, the donor may still be able to donate directly to the recipient as part of our Blood Type Incompatible Transplant Program. More testing must be done to decide if this is an option.
- If the donor cannot donate to the intended recipient, the donor-recipient pair might be able to participate in our Kidney Exchange Program. In this program, incompatible donor-recipient pairs exchange kidneys so that each recipient receives a compatible organ.
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Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Finding a living donor could be a lengthy process, with highs and lows. Its normal to feel discouraged at times. Talking about your emotions through the transplant process can help relieve stress, particularly if you talk with people who understand what youre going through.
Support groups offer a safe space to connect with people who can empathize with your situation and offer encouraging advice. Every UT Southwestern patient can get a streamlined referral to our transplant psychologist who helps guide patients through the full range of emotions that can arise as you wait for a donor kidney or liver.
Positive Crossmatch And Sensitized Patient Kidney Transplant
This program makes it possible to perform kidney transplants in patients who have developed antibodies against their kidney donor, a situation known as “positive crossmatch.”
The process is similar to that for blood type incompatible kidney transplants. Patients receive medications to decrease their antibody levels or they undergo plasmapheresis treatments to remove the harmful antibodies from their blood. If their antibody levels are successfully reduced, they can then go ahead with the transplant.
Blood type incompatible kidney transplants and positive crossmatch/sensitized patient kidney transplants have been very successful in the United States and internationally. Success rates are close to those for transplants from compatible living donors and are better than success rates for deceased donor transplants.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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How To Share Your Story And Find A Living Kidney Donor
Finding a living donor can sound scary and overwhelming. Where do you start and what are the best ways to share your story? Heres advice from two transplant recipients who once stood in your shoes and a transplant social worker: Gisela Delgado, an advocate for living donation Morgan Reid, Transplant Policy and Strategy with the National Kidney Foundation and Dori Mench, a post-transplant social worker.
Incompatible Living Donor Transplant
Ideally, to be eligible for transplantation, kidney donors and recipients should have compatible blood and tissue types. Too often, however, willing live donors do not meet these medical criteria. While it remains preferable to receive a kidney from someone who is fully immunologically compatible, recipients can be successfully transplanted from a donor with mismatched antibodies.
When antibodies are present, the blood of the recipient and donor react to each other, much like an allergic reaction. In the past, this reaction has caused the recipient’s body to reject the donor organ. Today, we can successfully transplant from an incompatible donor if the recipient’s blood is first “cleaned” of antibodies through a process known as plasmaphereis.
First, the amount of antibodies present must be quantified. This level helps to determine the number of treatments required. Next, the recipient’s blood is separated into cells and plasma . The plasma is removed and replaced with a commercially available plasma substitute. Removing the plasma removes the antibodies. In essence, plasmapheresis is similar to dialysis it removes antibodies just as dialysis removes waste products.
Depending on the level of antibodies present, plasmapheresis may be performed anywhere from 2-10 times. Most patients receive the treatment every other day, for up to three times a week. Once the quantity of antibodies drops to a low enough level, the recipient can undergo the transplant.
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