Kidney transplantation is the best way known to save a
person's life after he or she develops
kidney failure. In the past, kidneys were only taken
from living close relatives or from people who had recently died (cadavers).
Transplants from living donors have a much better chance of success than those
from cadaver donors. Also, the waiting time for a cadaver kidney can be as long
as 4 years in the United States. For this reason, more people are making the
decision to become kidney donors.
Almost anyone can
become a kidney donor. A living donor is:
If you decide to become a kidney donor, samples of your blood will be
drawn for testing, including your
blood type and other genetic information (HLA type) to
see how well you match the recipient. These tests will be repeated 7 to 10 days
before the surgery if you decide to become a donor.
If your blood
type and genetic information match that of the recipient, you will meet with
social workers at the transplant facility to discuss
other obligations. You will be given information, such as how much time you
will need to take off from work and details of surgery and the recovery
process, that will help you make an informed decision. Your meetings with the
social work team will be strictly confidential.
After you have
decided to become a kidney donor and your crossmatch results are known, you
will be evaluated by a doctor, usually a
nephrologist. Your evaluation will begin with a
medical history and physical exam. You will have a series of lab tests to
screen for kidney function, including
urine tests for protein. You may also have a
CT scan of the kidneys to evaluate your kidneys,
urinary tract, and other structures in your pelvis.
will be given a
general anesthetic before your surgery. Until
recently, the removal of a kidney required an
8 in. (20.3 cm) to
9 in. (22.9 cm) incision on one
side of the body (flank). Now,
laparoscopy is usually used to remove the donor
kidney. Advantages of laparoscopic kidney removal include less pain, shorter
hospital stays, a more rapid return to normal activities, and a smaller, less
Donating a kidney has not caused an increase in other health problems for
donors. Organ donors continue to be carefully studied by many research groups
in the United States. The risk of death following kidney donation is extremely
Donating a kidney will not cause any limitations in your
normal daily activities. After the recovery from your surgery, you will be able
to resume all of your normal activities, including exercising and participating
Donating a kidney will not affect your ability to
become pregnant, carry a child to term, or father a child.
In the United States,
your medical costs will be covered by the recipient's medical insurance. Most
insurance companies cover 100% of the medical costs of a transplant, including
pretransplant evaluations and lab tests. If the recipient does not have medical
insurance, your medical costs will be covered by Medicare.
For more information on becoming a
kidney donor, see:
May 7, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Mitchell H. Rosner, MD - Nephrology
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Last modified on: 19 May 2013