Types of liver transplant

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​Onc​e your assessment is done, you will be added to the transplant waiting list. How long you remain on the waiting list depends on the type of liver transplant you receive.


A person can receive a transplant liver from:

  • a living donor
  • a deceased donor.

Living donor

A living donor is usually a close relative, such as a parent, sister or brother, but they can also be a friend or someone you have never met. The donor should be over 18 years of age.

Living donor transplant is encouraged, as there are not enough livers available for everyone on the transplant waiting list. If a relative or a friend is assessed to be a match for you, you will know exactly where your organ is coming from. You will also have time to prepare for your transplant surgery.

If you have a willing living donor, they will go through a full assessment at an adult transplant program to make sure that they and their liver is healthy. The assessment is carried out by the donor's own medical team (separate from your transplant team) but otherwise is similar to your assessment. It will help the team find out about the person’s health to make sure that it is safe for them to give you part of their liver. 

While the living donor is being assessed, you will be placed on the deceased donor list.

Deceased donor

Deceased donor​ donation means that the liver comes from someone who has died in an intensive care unit in a hospital, usually after a traumatic event such as a car accident or fall. The family of that person must give consent to donate their organs.

Doctors will only remove a deceased person’s organ when:

  • they are satisfied that the person is ”brain dead”, in other words, will only be able to breathe with the help of a machine
  • the person’s family gives their consent to organ donation.

As you can imagine, it is not possible to plan a deceased donor donation ahead of time. So when a suitable liver becomes available, the person waiting for the transplant needs to get to the hospital quickly.

Types of liver transplant surgeries

There are several types of liver transplant surgeries. They include:

  • whole graft liver transplant
  • reduced-size liver transplant
  • split liver transplant.

Whole graft liver transplant

In whole graft liver transplants, all of the deceased donor’s liver is transplanted into the patient. This is only done in a small percentage of teen liver transplants.

Reduced-size liver transplant

A reduced-size liver transplant allows a teen to receive a small part of a much larger liver from a deceased donor. If you have this type of transplant, you may receive the left lobe (section), the right lobe or the left lateral segment (the left side). Long-term, reduced-size liver transplants are just as successful as whole graft transplants. The reduced liver grows as you grow.

Split liver transplant

Split liver transplants are like reduced-size liver transplants in that only a small part of a liver is transplanted.

If the liver is from a deceased donor, it is divided between two patients who need a transplant. If it is from a living donor, a small part of the donor’s liver is transplanted. This liver grows with you over time and works as a full liver.

Last updated: November 30th 2017