A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that the risk of complications for the donor in a live-donor liver transplant is more than expected, while the risk of death for the donor is less than what doctors thought. The study indicated that donors in adult live-donor liver transplants had a 1-in-7 chance of serious complications for the donor. This type of transplant involves giving the donor's right liver lobe, the larger one, to the transplant recipient. Each lobe grows to the size of a full liver in about six weeks.
The researchers found that there had been just one donor death for 449 such transplants that were done in the United States from 1997 through late 2000. However, they found that 14 per cent of donors had serious complications such as major infections and the need for rehospitalization, another operation or a blood transfusion.
The researchers said that this type of transplant has raised ethical questions as healthy donors, usually friends and relatives , are subjected to surgery, as they feel pressurized to participate despite the fear of complications and death. They also said that the number of such transplants has been steadily raising since just one transplant was done in 1997. The number has jumped 7 per cent to 266 in 2000 and 394 in 2001. Also, the list of patients waiting for a transplant has increased to over 16,000 as patients see improved chances of success.
Dr. Fred Gordon, director of liver transplantation at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., who said that the procedure is here to stay, said the findings will give potential donors a clearer picture of the risks.