It’s National Liver Month and a good time to talk about liver donation! There are two ways to donate a liver, or part of a liver. Wait…what?! Yes that’s right- a person can donate part of their liver and the donated liver will regenerate within the recipient. That’s pretty amazing, considering no other internal organ can do that!
Back to the two ways to donate a liver: through deceased donation or through living donation. If a deceased donor is eligible to donate their liver, they can donate it to one person, or in some cases, it can be split into two parts and save two people! Medical science and technology is pretty incredible and is constantly developing new technologies that help us save more lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. The regenerative ability of the liver is also what allows a living donor to donate up to 60% of their liver to another person. Once the living liver donation is complete, it will regenerate in both the living donor and the recipient.
What does the liver actually do?
Most of us know we have a liver, but what does it actually do within our bodies? The liver is one of the largest and most complex internal organs. The liver weighs about 3.3 pounds in adults and is made up of a spongy mass of wedge-shaped lobes. And no wonder it is so large, as it has many functions that are necessary for a healthy life:
- It helps process carbohydrates, fats and proteins and stores vitamins.
- It processes nutrients absorbed from food in the intestines and turns them into materials that the body needs for life.
- It makes the factors the blood needs for clotting.
- It secretes bile to help digest fats.
- It breaks down toxic substances in the blood such as drugs (also medications) and alcohol.
- It is responsible for the metabolism of most drugs.
Local Stories of Liver Donation and Transplant
There are currently 11,000 people waiting for a liver transplant in the U.S. Despite the great need, there were only 9,701 liver transplants in 2020. Even as the number of organs available to be transplanted increases year after year, there remains a big gap between available organs and the number of people in need of a lifesaving liver transplant.
What You Can Do To Help
If you have questions about liver transplants or living liver donation, always consult with your physician first. Remember, while not everyone can be a living donor, anyone can sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor after death.