Liver Transplants and Organ Donation
A strong functioning liver is a necessity for living a full and healthy life. Liver failure is a life-threatening disease that requires urgent medical attention, and in many cases, a liver transplant.
People all over the world are waiting for a liver transplant. In the United States alone, there are more than 16,000 people on the liver transplant waiting list.
Liver Organ Donations
About 6,000 liver transplants are performed each year in the United States. Unfortunately, this leaves a large number of people on the waiting list, as there are not enough donors to meet the growing need for liver transplants.
The reality is that a person could be on the waiting list for years. In fact, numerous patients die every year waiting for a liver donor.
Donating your liver is a selfless act that can benefit not just the life of the recipient, but their loved ones, too. An interesting fact about liver donations is one donated liver can save more than just one life. Frequently, a whole liver can be split in two, and given to both an adult and a child recipient.
Organ donation has greatly affected two of our own team members at DMV.org, including one whose father received a liver transplant. Read their personal stories.
Registering as an organ donor is a simple process. You can either sign up when you obtain or renew your driver’s license, or register through our website.
The Liver’s Role in the Body
As the largest internal organ of your body, the liver is one of the most important organs and plays a number of critical roles, including:
- Removing the toxins from your blood before they flow to the rest of your body.
- Making proteins that are necessary for blood clotting.
- Helping to digest food.
- Fighting infections.
- Storing energy when you need it.
Causes of Liver Failure
A person needs a liver transplant when his or her liver is failing due to a chronic disease. The most common causes of liver failure in adults include:
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
- Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis C.
- Genetic liver diseases.
- Autoimmune liver diseases.
- Liver cancer.
- Fatty liver disease.
The most common reason for children to need a liver transplant is biliary atresia, which is a birth defect in newborns. This disease causes significant liver damage and is deadly if left untreated. While other treatments exist for this disease, a liver transplant is frequently required.
Recipient Recovery Times
After receiving a liver transplant, most patients recover within 6 months to 1 year and return to living a normal lifestyle.
The majority of recipients are still living a healthy lifestyle 5 years after their transplant. Depending on the reason for their liver failure, some patients may suffer from liver failure again and may need further treatment.
Risks of Liver Transplants
As with all major surgeries, there are various risks involved when undergoing a major operation. The most common risk patients face after receiving a liver transplant is rejection of the new organ.
All patients are given anti-rejection medication to combat the rejection and ensure their body accepts the liver.
Since the anti-rejection medication weakens the immune system, patients may find difficulties in fighting infections. For this reason, it is important to notice any symptoms of infections and have them treated immediately.
Register as an Organ Donor
It is also important to inform your family members and loved ones of your organ donor status, and let them know which organs you wish to donate. They may be contacted to give their consent to donate your organs in the event of an incident, and asked which organs you've given consent for.
If you want to be an organ donor but only wish to donate specific organs, check with your state’s Organ Donor Registry for more information about changing your organ donation preferences.