A total of 365 donor hepatectomies performed between May 1985 and March 1990 were reviewed and analyzed retrospectively to identify risk factors associated with poor graft function and to study the outcome of grafts retrieved from "marginal" donors. The donor mean age was 27.1 years (8-69 years). Mean ICU donor stay was 2.7 days (range 0 to 18 days), and the mean ischemic time was 8.6 hr (range 3 to 22 hr). The pancreas was retrieved in 39 donors. Donor's weight above 100 kg was the only variable found to be associated with both significantly increased 3-month graft loss (P<0.01) and early hepatocellular damage—AST or ALT >2000 U/ml, 1st day posttransplant (P<0.02). Prolonged stay in the ICU (>3days), although associated with a significantly increased rate of hepatocellular damage (P<0.05), did not affect early graft survival. A systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg despite the use of high-dose dopamine (>15/ig/mg/min), but not each of these variables itself, was also associated with a significantly increase rate of hepatocellular damage (P<0.001). All other variables, including age >50, ischemic time >12 hr, combined liver-pancreas procurement, and liver function test abnormalities, did not affect the outcome. We conclude that extending our limits to accept donors of the higher age group and those who have moderately abnormal liver function tests or a prolonged ischemic time will not jeopardize our results. It is suggested to perform liver biopsy in overweight donors during the retrieval to prevent using grafts with severe fatty infiltration. It is hypothesized that hormonal changes, starvation, and increased risk to develop infection might jeopardize the outcome of grafts from donors with a prolonged ICU stay. Although 70% of the early hepatocellular injuries are reversible, the remaining 30% result in graft failure.