Living kidney donation

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Find out if you are a good candidate for living kidney donation.

Patient guide

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The national wait time for a kidney transplant can be as long as six years. Living donations drop the wait time to an average of just 100 days for patients who need a kidney transplant.

Serving as a living kidney donor helps ensure that patients are in better health during transplant surgery by reducing their wait. It also helps people waiting for deceased donor kidneys by lowering the number of people on the waiting list.

Living donation does not change life expectancy for the donor, who can continue to lead a normal life after recovery from the surgery. Studies have shown that one kidney is enough to keep the body healthy by removing wastes and excess fluid from the blood.

About living kidney donation

Living donation takes place when a person donates a kidney to a loved one in need of a transplant. The donor is often a close family member such as a parent, child or sibling, but can also be a spouse, more distant family member or friend.

Living kidney donations are performed via laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, a procedure that greatly improves the surgical experience for the donor. It leaves three small scars and one large scar where the kidney is removed. Recovery is only one to three days, and many donors return to work within two to four weeks after the surgery.

Living donor paired exchange

A living donor whose kidney is not compatible with their loved one can participate in a living donor paired exchange. In this process, donors give their kidney to a compatible patient, and that patient provides a donor whose kidney is compatible to your loved one. 

The surgery for the two donors and two recipients occurs simultaneously. This allows two recipients to receive a life-enhancing organ and meets the desires of the donors who wish to donate.

Living/deceased donor exchange

Another transplant option is a living/deceased donor exchange. When a donor is incompatible with their intended recipient, they may still donate a kidney to someone on our transplant list. In turn, the donor’s intended recipient is given priority on the national waiting list, thereby reducing their anticipated wait time for a deceased donor kidney. This benefits all who are on the waiting list by removing one person.

Benefits

Living kidney transplantation has many advantages over kidney transplantation from a deceased donor.

Since the living kidney donor is usually a close relative of the person getting the transplant, there is a better chance of a good genetic match and less chance of rejection. As a result, living donor kidneys tend to last twice as long as deceased donor kidneys. Also, lower doses of immunosuppressive drugs may be used with fewer side effects.

Other benefits include:

  • The transplant can be scheduled ahead of time, something that cannot be done if the recipient is on a waiting list for a deceased donor kidney transplant. This allows the recipient to plan for absences from work, child care and other obligations.
  • Kidneys that come from living donors generally begin to function immediately after the transplant, while deceased donor kidneys may take several days or weeks before they begin to function normally.
  • Kidneys from living donors don’t need to be transported from one site to another, so the kidney is in better condition when it’s transplanted.

Risks

It is important to realize that although living related kidney transplants are highly successful, problems may occur. Sometimes, the kidney is rejected or the original disease that caused kidney failure may return and cause the transplanted kidney to fail.