Deceased Donor Liver Transplants

Who organizes organ transplants?

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the national agency that oversees organ transplant. This agency works with our local procurement agency, LifeLink of Georgia, to recover organs. UNOS also maintains the national computerized list of people waiting for liver transplants.

How does the deceased donor process work?

  1. A liver is donated from a person who has just died.
  2. The donor's medical information is put into the UNOS database.
  3. UNOS notifies Children's that a liver is available.
  4. The pediatric liver transplant surgeon and team review whether to accept or decline the organ. This is based on whether the liver is the best match for your child.
  5. The Children's liver transplant coordinator calls you when a liver is available and a match.
  6. Your child is prepped for surgery. The liver transplant surgery may take four to 12 hours. Patients can typically go home seven to 14 days following the surgery. If your child is sick, or if an emergency situation arises, your child's surgery may be canceled.

The UNOS list has a pool of patients who are waiting for a liver donation. When a liver is available, UNOS searches their entire pool for a potential match. The liver is given to the child with the highest Pediatric End Stage Liver Disease (PELD) score and with the same blood type and size.

Other factors involved with the matching process include:

  • The patient's current medical status.
  • Location of the liver and the child.
  • Amount of time that the child has been on the waiting list.
  • Blood type: Your child can receive a liver from a person with the same or with a different blood type.
  • Same blood type transplants: The four most common blood types are O, A, B and AB. Pediatric liver transplants are typically performed with the same blood type. This also includes type O, which is a “universal donor” and can be given to types A or B.
  • Different blood type transplants: Under urgent conditions your child may receive a different blood type liver.

Waiting for a deceased donor liver can take time. If you have questions or concerns, please talk to the Children's liver transplant team.

What can I learn about the organ donor?

Families often want to know the age of the donor and how the donor died. Information about the donor cannot be shared. Likewise, information about the liver transplant recipient and his family will not be given to the donor's family without consent.

LifeLink will follow up with the donor family to let them know which organs were successfully transplanted. If the transplant recipient's family gives permission, we will give LifeLink a small amount of nonidentifying information about the child. LifeLink believes that following up with the donor's family helps them move forward as they grieve the death of their child.

If families wish, they can write a letter to the donor's family that does not include identifying information. The Children's liver transplant coordinator will send the letter to LifeLink, which will forward it to the donor family.

Learn how to become an organ donor

Learn more about UNOS

Learn more about LifeLink