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Living Transplant Donations

Living donation takes place when a living person donates an organ (or part of an organ) for transplantation to another person. There are several different types of living donor transplant options:

  1. The donor is a family member
  2. The donor is not a relative, but is emotionally related to the recipient perhaps a close friend, spouse, or in-law
  3. The donor is a stranger to the patient, often referred to as altruistic donation

Regardless of who the living donor is, it usually is someone with a compatible blood type. Typically, with a living donor:

  • The transplant can occur whenever you (the donor), and the transplant team decide.
  • The need for temporary dialysis after the transplant surgery is less than with a deceased donor transplant.
  • The kidney transplant recovery time for the donor depends on the technique used to remove the kidney. It ranges from 2 weeks to 2 months.

There is one critical rule related to living kidney donor transplants:  The donor must be willing to give the kidney without pressure (or financial incentive) from anyone.

Following are some common questions about living donor programs.  Answers are a reprint of information compiled and created by the National Kidney Foundation.

What are the advantages of living donation over nonliving donation?

Transplants performed from living donors have several advantages compared to transplants performed from nonliving donors:

  1. Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
  2. A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, making it easier to monitor. Some nonliving donor kidneys do not function immediately and as a result, the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
  3. Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both donor and recipient.

Are transplants from living donors always successful?

Although transplantation is highly successful, and success rates continue to improve, problems may occur. Sometimes, the kidney is lost to rejection, surgical complications, or the original disease that caused the recipient’s kidneys to fail.

Where can I find statistics related to living donation?

You can find statistics on the number of nonliving and living donor transplants performed at a particular transplant center as well as the graft survival rates for transplant recipients, the center and additional information about donation and transplantation on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) Web site. OPTN compiles statistics on organ donation and transplantation in the U.S. on a nationwide, regional and state level, as well as information on individual transplant centers.  Go to to view available OPTN data.

The best source of information on expected donor outcomes is from your transplant team.

What tests are used to determine if someone can be a kidney donor?
See the How You Can Save a Life page for testing information for living kidney donors.

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