There is a lack of longer-term prospective data on living liver donors’ quality of life (QOL). This is the first prospective study examining QOL up to 2 years after donation.
A consecutive sample of living donors (n=40) was compared with a sample of potential donors (n=27) with respect to QOL, anxiety, and depression. Performing mixed-effects model analysis, both groups were assessed before transplantation, with and without simultaneous donation (T0), and at three postoperative data points: 3 months (T1), 1 year (T2), and 2 years (T3). Subsequently, both groups were compared with reference data of the general population and healthy individuals.
At T1, living donors’ physical QOL was impaired. At T2 and T3, physical QOL was slightly lower than the preoperative level but within the range of healthy individuals in both living donors and potential donors. Neither mental QOL nor depression showed significant changes across time, while anxiety decreased in both groups. Subgroup analysis of adult-to-adult (AA) donors and adult-to-pediatric (AP) donors revealed different trajectories of mental QOL, anxiety, and depression. AP donors experienced more preoperative psychological strain, which improved after donation, whereas AA donors showed unchanged anxiety and depression, and a slight decrease in mental QOL 2 years after surgery. Two AA donors, whose recipients had died, reported persisting depressive symptoms after donation.
One and two years after donation, QOL is not substantially impaired in the majority of donors. Future research needs to provide an even longer prospective follow-up and should more rigorously explore risk factors for a negative donor outcome.