Frequently Asked Questions About Living Kidney Donation

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Who can be a living kidney donor?

 

Anyone who is older than age 18 and in good physical and emotional health can apply to be a living donor. UW Health participates in a national kidney exchange program. We offer many options for donation.


Does a living donor’s blood type have to match the recipient’s blood type?


A donor and recipient do not have to have matching blood types. Anyone who is older than age 18 and in good physical and emotional health can apply to be a living donor. UW Health participates in a national kidney exchange program. We offer many options for donation.

 

Does a living donor need to be related to their recipient?


A donor and recipient do not have to be related or have matching blood types. Anyone who is older than age 18 and in good physical and emotional health can apply to be a living donor. UW Health participates in a national kidney exchange program. We offer many options for donation.


Why is a kidney from a living donor better?

  • The kidney can last two times longer than a deceased donor kidney
  • The recipient will have a shorter wait time, often just months instead of years, when the recipient is in better health
  • The surgery is scheduled when it works best for the donor and recipient, and recovery is easier
  • The recipient receives a great kidney, and the best match
  • It shortens the deceased donor waitlist by removing the recipient

What are the risks for being a living kidney donor?

 

This is a safe procedure, but all surgeries have risks. Risks include:

  • Significant bleeding (rare)
  • Blood transfusion (rare)
  • Return to the operating room (very rare, <1 in 100)
  • Wound complications (rare)
  • Developing high blood pressure (risk may be slightly higher for donors)
  • Renal failure over lifetime (may be slightly higher for donors)
  • Death during the surgery (very low, estimated at 3 in 10,000)

What does a living kidney donor have to do to be tested and approved for organ donation?

 

Tests ensure donors are healthy enough to donate. It is a very thorough evaluation. There are three parts to the donation evaluation: medical tests, education about living donation and review and discussions with our living donation team. Our team includes social workers, kidney specialists, surgeons, dieticians, nurse coordinators and our living donor advocate. Learn more about the living donation experience at UW Health

 

How is a living kidney donor surgery performed?

 

There are two types of donor surgeries: laparoscopic and open. Almost all donor surgeries (>99%) are done with the laparoscopic method where a few tiny incisions (5-10 mm) are made and a camera and instruments are inserted.

 

The kidney is removed through a small incision at the pant line. The surgery takes about three hours. The donor often goes home two days after surgery.

The donor surgery in a living kidney transplant The recipient surgery in a living kidney donation
A few tiny incisions (5-10 mm,or less than ½ inch) are made and a camera and surgical instruments are inserted.The kidney is removed through a small incision at the pant line. They can remove the left or right kidney for donation, but usually the left kidney will be removed. For a surgery without scars, doctors may do the donor surgery through the navel. Once the donor kidney is removed, it is taken to where the recipient is, and placed into the recipient. A donor can live well with one kidney, and the recipient will have better health with their new kidney.

 

How long does it take to recover from living kidney donation?

 

Donors can usually leave the hospital two days after donation. Everyone recovers at their own pace. Most donors return to their regular lifestyle by six weeks after donation. View this diagram (pdf) to see the living donation surgical experience.

 

What are the costs for a living donor?

 

Most expenses, including the donor’s evaluation and surgery, are paid by the recipient’s insurance. Donors will pay for their own travel expenses, including food, gasoline and hotel. A donor will need time off from work and may not have paid leave for this use. Our team will share information about what costs to expect, as well as information about tax benefits and hot to get help with expenses. Read more at our Financial Toolkit for Living Donors.

 

* In the state of Wisconsin, donors may subtract up to $10,000 from their federal adjusted gross income for these costs on their state income tax form. An employee of the state of Wisconsin may also receive 30 days paid leave of absence for donating a kidney.

 

What health care will a living kidney donor need after donating?

 

During recovery, the donor will be seen for follow-up care at the UW Health Transplant Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. For their lifetime, we recommend donors have an annual physical, including blood pressure monitoring and blood tests that monitor kidney function. There are no special diets or medicines that need to be taken after kidney donation.

 

Why should I choose UW Health for my living kidney donation program?

 

The UW Health Transplant Program has been one of the nation’s most respected leaders in organ donation and transplantation for more than 50 years. Our team has completed more than 15,000 transplants and is one of the largest kidney transplant centers in the world. Our living donor kidney program began in 1966 and has served more than 3,000 living donors. We are the largest kidney transplant program with the National Kidney Foundation. Meet our team (pdf)