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People in need of liver donations may need to ask

January 7, 2010 |  1:37 pm

More than 15,000 Americans are in need of a liver transplant, but the number of donated livers available each year from deceased donors is less than half that. However, live donation -- when an individual donates a part of his or her liver -- is an alternative that could help many of those on waiting lists.

A new study suggests that transplant candidates who talk about their need for a living donor with family and friends are much more likely to receive a donation. Researchers from six New York medical centers and the New York Center for Liver Transplantation provided wait-listed patients at five liver transplant centers in New York with a peer-based educational brochure and DVD that contained testimonials and other data from previous living donors. The study showed that liver-transplant candidates' ability to discuss live donation increased because of the materials. Compared with the period prior to the study, living donation increased 42%, and the number of individuals who volunteered for donation evaluation increased by 74%. The study is published in the January issue of the journal Liver Transplantation.

People in need of liver transplants often do not fully understand the process of live donation, worry about the risks to the donor and are thus reticent to discuss it, the lead author of the paper, Samantha DeLair, said in a news release.

"It is important to follow live donors post-donation both for the donors themselves and to provide wait-list patients and their loved ones with as much information as possible as they consider live donation for themselves," she said.

The materials used in the study, "In Their Own Words -- The Experiences of Living Liver Donors," can be accessed here.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: A liver transplantation surgery. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times