Introduction to Living Kidney Donation

Living kidney donation happens when a living person gives one of his or her kidneys to someone else who has kidneys that are not working. During this surgery, the donor’s kidney is removed, 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. 


The donor surgery in a living kidney transplant The recipient surgery in a living kidney donation
Donor surgery is typically done laparoscopically.
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.


Living Kidney Donation is Important

More than 80 percent of the people on the national organ transplant waitlist need a kidney, and wait times are increasing. Living with kidney disease is very difficult. Dialysis treatments are tiring and do not end the disease.

Why a kidney from a living donor is better


The Living Kidney Donation Process

The donation process is based on the donor’s actions, and how they wish to move forward. This diagram outlines the steps of living kidney donation:

Living Kidney Donation Process


Not everyone who considers donation can or will donate. Our Living Donor Advocate represents the donor to make sure their decision remains private. Tests ensure donors are healthy enough to donate. Some tests can be done near home. The final evaluation is at University Hospital. Learn more about the living kidney donation experience.


Financial Cost of Living Donation

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 social workers will tell donors what costs to expect, share information about tax benefits and explain ways to get help with expenses.


Who Can be a Living Donor?

People who are older than age 18 and in good physical and emotional health can apply to be a living donor. Our program offers many options for donation. It is no longer necessary for the donor and recipient to be related, or for the donor’s blood type to match their intended recipient. Learn about options for living kidney donation.

Consider Being a Living Donor

Living kidney donation is an immeasurable gift. To the recipient, their donor will always be a hero. Deceased donation rates continue at about the same pace as in the last 10 years, but the number of people who need a transplant continues to grow. Living donation is the best way to save more lives and our options program means a living donor can save one life, or several. Learn how you can be a donor