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Live liver donors can face problems

7th November 2011

People who donate parts of their liver may end up having physical and psychological problems as a result, according to a recent German study.

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The researchers found that nearly 50% of the liver donors they studied had eventually experienced some form of physical or psychological complication.

Living-donor liver transplants involve removing a lobe from someone's liver, which gets implanted in someone else.

Following surgery, the donor's liver grows back to its full size relatively quickly, usually within a few months.

Lead researcher Georgios Sotiropoulos, a professor of surgery and transplantation at Essen University Hospital, said that some people had long-term complaints which could possibly by addressed using new surgical techniques or through doctor follow-ups.

Jean Emond, vice chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the transplant centre at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study, said he thought the researchers had been cautious in their assertions, and that the conclusion was reasonable.

He said he believed doctors needed to keep a close eye on people who acted as living donors in transplants.

For the study, the researchers simply polled 83 people who had been living donors in liver transplants.

While 39 patients had not noticed any change, the rest of the patients had some type of effect.

Complaints regarding fatty food were by far the most common, and 31% of all donors made note of them.

People had trouble digesting fatty food, some people reporting diarrhoea, and others developing high levels of stomach acid.

A small number of people felt discomfort in the area just below the ribs, where the lobe had been taken.

One patient's pre-existing psoriasis worsened after they became a donor.

In terms of emotional problems, two donors were hospitalised for severe depression.

A few patients who reported still feeling healthy had been turned down for life insurance.

The average age of the study subjects was 36, and the average time that had elapsed before the patients were contacted for the study was 6 years.

Historically, the first live-donor surgeries were made to children.

Emond, who assisted with the first live-donor liver surgery, said that ethics had to play a role in using people's organs, including the issue of full and informed consent.



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