SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – A single-center analysis of complications following living liver donation found a low rate of severe complications, and a high quality of life among donors. The results are similar to what has been seen in a previous multicenter study in the United States, and the authors hope that the results can help inform potential donors and their physicians.
There is a significant shortage of deceased liver donors, leading to the death of about 3,500 liver transplant hopefuls in 2016, compared with about 2,900 who received a transplant. Living donor transplant was developed and first attempted in 1996 as an attempt to counter this shortage, and for a brief period it was popular, peaking at 500 donor surgeries in 2001. But that year the death of a donor occurred in New York and received widespread publicity.
Overall, though, the study showed relatively few complications, and that donors reported good quality of life. “There was a slight dip in health-related quality of life at 5 years and 10 years, but at all times the donors had significantly better quality of life compared to the standard population,” said Dr. Chinnakotla, clinical director of pediatric transplantation at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
The researchers examined long-term complications and quality of life among 176 liver donors who underwent surgery between 1997 and 2016 at the University of Minnesota. At total of 140 donors underwent a right-lobe hepatectomy without middle hepatic vein, 14 underwent right lobe with middle hepatic vein, 4 underwent left lobe, and 18 underwent left lateral segmentectomy.
The researchers then analyzed complications graded by the Clavien scale. They found that 59.1% of right-lobe donors experienced no complications at all; 5.8% had Clavien scale 1 complications, meaning something abnormal occurred but required no intervention; and 27.3% had a Clavien 2 complication, requiring pharmaceutical treatment, a blood transfusion, or parenteral nutrition. Clavien 3a complications, which required an intervention without general anesthesia, occurred in 1.9% of cases, and Clavien 3b complications, which required anesthesia, occurred in 5.8%.
A total of 81.8% of left-lobe donors experienced no complications, 4.5% had a Clavien 1 complication, and 13.6% a Clavien 2. There were no Clavien 3 or 4 complications in left-lobe donors.
Overall, the incidence of Clavien grade 3 or higher complications was 7%, there were no complications involving organ failure, and there were no deaths.
Quality of life, as measured by the 36-item Short Form Health Survey and an internally designed donor-specific survey, was higher among recipients than in the general population at all time points. The primary long-term complaints were incisional discomfort, which ranged from about 23% to 38% in frequency, and intolerance to fatty meals, which had a frequency of 20%-30%, and is likely attributable to accompanying cholecystectomy, according to Dr. Chinnakotla.
“The overall results appear to have been excellent,” said William C. Chapman, MD, who was invited by the meeting organizers to review and comment on the study. Dr. Chapman is surgical director of transplant surgery at Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr. Chapman also noted that some studies in Asia have looked at reducing complications in donors, while avoiding a small-for-size graft, by using two left-lobe grafts from separate living donors (). “We haven’t been brave enough to do that in the United States, but I think that is a strategy we can look forward to in the future,” said Dr. Chinnakotla.
No funding source was disclosed.