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Living donor transplantation offers a safe alternative for liver transplant patients

Amsterdam | September 26, 2022

Living donor liver transplants can reduce waitlist time and deaths according to a new study published in the Journal of Hepatology

Demand for donor livers for transplant patients outstrips supply with over 15% of waitlist patients dying after a year. A new international studyopens in new tab/window offers support for increasing the use of living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) in Western countries and reducing the imbalance between organ supply and demand. This study is reported in the Journal of Hepatologyopens in new tab/window, the official journal of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, published by Elsevier.

LDLT is when a portion of the liver from a healthy living person is removed and placed into someone whose liver is no longer working properly. The donor's remaining liver regrows and returns to its normal size, volume, and capacity within a few months after the surgery. Although the waiting period for a deceased donor transplant can be over five years, LDLT remains uncommon compared to deceased donor liver transplantation (DDLT) in Western countries compared to those in Asia.

Identifying differences in outcomes and other transplant characteristics may help identify areas for healthcare improvement and clarify whether expanding LDLT practices can be justified in countries that rely primarily on DDLT.

“There has been a growing interest in strategies to alleviate the increasing demand for transplantation and the unacceptably high mortality on the liver transplant waitlist,” explained Gonzalo Sapisochin, MD, PhD, MSc, Division of General Surgery, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada. “One such approach is LDLT, which can expand the number of grafts available for transplantation. However, short- and long-term outcomes need to be maintained for both the donors and recipients. We therefore sought to compare donor and recipient characteristics and post-transplant outcomes after LDLT.”

This is a retrospective multicenter study of adults aged 18 years or older who underwent primary LDLT between January 2008 and December 2018 as reported by three national liver transplantation registries: United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS; US), National Health Service Blood and Transplantation (NHSBT; UK), and the Canadian Organ Replacement Registry (CORR; Canada). Patients undergoing retransplantation or multi-organ transplantation were excluded. Investigators compared recipient and donor characteristics, temporal trends, and post-LDLT outcomes across the three registries. In addition, they sought to evaluate outcomes for LDLT compared with DDLT within each of the countries.

A total of 2,954 LDLTs were performed in these countries, 2,328 of which took place in the US, 529 in Canada, and 97 in the UK. Canada performed the highest proportion of LDLT procedures over time. Investigators were pleasantly surprised to see that long-term outcomes were excellent despite relatively low use of LDLT in Western countries. The one-, five-, and 10-year patient survival rates were 92.6%, 82.8%, and 70.0% in the USA; 96.1%, 89.9%, and 82.2% in Canada; and 91.4%, 85.4%, and 66.7% in the UK, respectively.

Illustration showing living donor liver transplantations in the US, Canada, and UK

Living Donor Liver Transplantation (LDLT) in the US, Canada, and UK. Top left: Regeneration of the donor liver in both donor and recipient after transplantation.

This analysis of LDLT demonstrates that despite the low use of LDLT in Western countries compared to Asian countries, long-term survival is excellent. In addition, the mortality risk is not statistically significantly different between these three countries.

“This study offers support for increasing the use of LDLT in Western countries because it provides an opportunity to reduce the imbalance between organ supply and demand and, as a result, offers waitlist candidates the possibility of earlier transplantation and decreased mortality on the transplant waitlist," commented Dr. Sapisochin.


Notes for editors

The article is “Low utilization of adult-to-adult LDLT in Western countries despite excellent outcomes: International multicenter analysis of the US, UK, and Canada,” by Tommy Ivanics, MD, MPH, David Wallace, MSc, Marco P.A.W. Claasen, MD, Madhukar S. Patel, MD, MBA, ScM, Rushin Brahmbhatt, MD, Chaya Shwaartz, MD, Andreas Prachalias, MD, Parthi Srinivasan, MBBS, FRCS, FRCS, Wayel Jassem, PhD, FRCS, Nigel Heaton, FRCS, Mark S. Cattral, MD, MSc, Nazia Selzner, MD, PhD, Anand Ghanekar, MD, PhD, Gabriela Morgenshtern, Neil Mehta, MD, Allan B. Massie, PhD, MHS, Jan van der Meulen, PhD, Dorry L. Segev, MD, PhD, and Gonzalo Sapisochin, MD, PhD, MSc ( in new tab/window). It appears online in advance of the Journal of Hepatology, volume 77, issue 5 (November 2022) published by Elsevier.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Freya Weise at +33 6 28 51 59 51 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact Dr. Gonzalo Sapisochin at [email protected]opens in new tab/window, or Ana Fernandes, Senior Public Affairs Advisor, University Health Network, at +1 437 216 4597 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

About the Journal of Hepatology

The Journal of Hepatologyopens in new tab/window, the premier journal devoted to liver diseases, is the official journal of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL). It publishes original papers, reviews, case reports, and letters to the Editor concerned with clinical and basic research in the field of hepatology. The journal has a 2021 Impact Factor of 30.083 (Source: Journal Citation Reports™ from Clarivate, 2022). www.journal-of-hepatology.euopens in new tab/window

About EASL

In the fifty plus years since EASLopens in new tab/window was founded, it has grown from a small organization that played host to 70 participants at its first meeting, to becoming the leading international liver association. EASL attracts the foremost hepatology experts as members and has an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education, and promoting changes in European liver policy.

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

Together with the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, we work in partnership with the communities we serve to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

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Freya Weise, MD, PhD


+33 (6) 28 51 59 51

E-mail Freya Weise, MD, PhD