FAQs about living donor kidney transplant.

Considering a living-donor kidney transplant? Interested in how to become a living kidney donor? A living donated kidney may come from a family member, good friend, spouse, in-law or even from a stranger who is in good health and has normal kidney function. Yet, there is a lot more to know, and a lot of questions to be asked and answered. Start here with the most common living kidney donor questions:

What are the advantages and benefits of a living donor transplant?

  • A live donor kidney has better results
  • Live donor kidneys last longer
  • A living donor transplant will eliminate the long wait time on the transplant waiting list
  • It is a planned procedure that can be timed for the optimal health of the recipient as well as for donor convenience

Are there other alternatives for the potential recipient?

The recipient will be on a waiting list.

What is expected of a living kidney donor?

Not everybody can give a kidney for donation. Donors need to be healthy individuals with two normal kidneys, a blood type compatible with the recipient, and the tissue typing crossmatch must be negative.

What tests are included in the donor medical evaluation?

The evaluation for a living kidney transplant donor is very similar to the evaluation for the transplant recipient. This is a very thorough medical and psychological evaluation. The results of the living donor’s medical evaluation will also be presented to the Transplant Committee of the transplant center. The Transplant Committee will then either approve or disapprove the living donor as a candidate for donation of their kidney.

How long will the kidney donor evaluation take?

Donor evaluations require different amounts of time, depending on the individual living kidney donor and his/her medical condition. Only one organ donor at a time will undergo medical evaluation. An estimation of the length of time that is required for the donor’s medical evaluation is approximately one month. After the completion of the medical evaluation, the donor test results will also be presented to the Transplant Committee. If the living donor is approved, a transplant date can be scheduled at a time that is mutually convenient for the recipient, donor, transplant center, transplant surgeon, and donor surgeon. The transplant date is usually 4 to 6 weeks following the committee’s approval.

What would prevent someone from being a potential living kidney donor?

Issues that would prevent someone from donating a kidney include:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • History of cancer or current cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney stones, recurrent kidney infection or history of surgery on the urinary system
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV positive
  • Sufficiently overweight to jeopardize health
  • Severe heart, lung or vascular problems
  • Unresolved stomach ulcers
  • Psychosocial issues that do not meet criteria guidelines

Not everybody can give a kidney for donation. Donors need to be healthy individuals with two normal kidneys, a blood type compatible with the recipient, and the tissue typing crossmatch must be negative.

What else should the living kidney donor know?

The kidney donor evaluation process will be kept confidential. No information will be given to the potential recipient without prior approval of the donor. Donors are strongly encouraged to have individual health insurance. This recommendation is based on the possibility that the donor’s ability to obtain insurance after donation may be more difficult. Donors should be aware that future health problems related to the donation may not be covered. These factors should be thoroughly considered prior to donating.

Finally, donors have the right to stop the donation evaluation process at any point along the way for any reason.

What can the donor expect after surgery?

If the kidney donor has had an open nephrectomy, the donor will have a larger incision than if he/she has laparoscopic surgery. Pain medication after surgery will help with the discomfort. The nurses will remind the patient to breathe deeply and cough frequently. This helps prevent pneumonia. The donor will be getting out of bed soon after surgery to help prevent lung or other problems.

To make sure that the donor receives adequate fluids and nourishment, intravenous fluids will be given until normal oral intake is established.

A catheter will be placed in the bladder for 24 hours following the surgery.

What if I am not compatible with my intended recipient? Are there other options?

You and your recipient may be eligible for the Paired Donor Exchange Program. This program allows you to donate to another recipient who was not compatible with their donor and then their donor would donate to your recipient.

If you are interested in the option, please discuss it with your transplant coordinator. You may also obtain information at the Alliance for Paired Donation website.

When can the donor travel long distances and/or go home?

Generally within 1 to 2 weeks following the surgery, the surgeon will see the kidney donor again as an outpatient in their office. If the donor is from out of the Dallas area and is healing well without problems, the surgeon will release the donor to go home.

Does the donor need follow-up evaluations after giving a kidney?

Yes, the donor will need to have a follow-up visit 3 months after the surgery to see the transplant nephrologist for a follow-up evaluation. It will also be necessary for some follow-up testing, which will include a CBC, routine blood chemistries, urinalysis, urine culture, and 24-hour urine for protein and creatinine. The transplant recipient’s insurance will pay for these follow-up tests.

It is recommended that the donor have annual follow-up examinations with their primary care physician. This examination may include a urinalysis, routine blood chemistries and blood pressure check. The donor will be financially responsible for the annual follow-up examinations.

There are usually no restrictions to activity. Some physicians may recommend that the donor refrain from contact sports following the donation of a kidney.

Additional Information

In order to comply with UNOS data collection requirements, donors will be contacted by the Transplant center at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years post-donation to answer a short set of questions regarding the donor’s current health status. The donor may be asked to go to their primary care physician to have a blood pressure check, a urinalysis to check for protein, and a renal panel blood test if they are from out of town, or they may be asked to have these tests performed at the transplant center. UNOS requires this data for donor follow-up.

Have additional questions regarding living kidney donor transplant, including being an organ donor? Call Dallas Nephrology Associates at 877-654-3639 or contact us via our convenient online form.