Q&A on Living Donation

Table of Contents:

1.
General Information on Living Donation
2.
Where Do I Start?
3.
The Evaluation Process
4.
Making the Decision
5.
Financial and Insurance Issues
6.
The Surgery
7.
What to Expect After Donation
8.
For Transplant Candidates

To print the entire Q & A, click here

 

1. General Information on Living Donation

  1. What is living donation?
  2. What organs can come from living donors?
  3. What are the advantages of living donation over non-living donation?
  4. Are transplants from living donors always successful?
  5. Where can I find statistics related to living donation?
  6. How does liver donation work?
  7. How does lung donation work?
  8. What about blood and bone marrow donation?

For more information on Organ Donation please visit our A to Z Health Guide.

What is living donation?

Living donation takes place when a living person donates an organ (or part of an organ) for transplantation to another person. The living donor can be a family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister (living related donation).

Living donation can also come from someone who is emotionally related to the recipient, such as a good friend, spouse or an in-law (living unrelated donation).

In some cases, living donation may even be from a stranger, which is called nondirected donation.

Back to top



What organs can come from living donors?

The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.

Back to top



What are the advantages of living donation over deceased donation?

Transplants performed from living donors may have several advantages compared to transplants performed from deceased 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 deceased 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 the donor and recipient.

Back to top



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 kidney to fail. Talk to the transplant center staff about their success rates and the national success rates.

Back to top



Where can I find statistics related to living donation?

You can find some statistics on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) web site. UNOS compiles statistics on every transplant center in the United States. To view all UNOS data, go to http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/viewDataReports.asp. You can find statistics on the number of non-living and living donor transplants performed at that particular center, respectively, and the graft survival rates for the transplant recipient.

The best source of information on expected donor outcomes is from your transplant team. See the list of "Elements of Disclosure" at http://www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingDonors/pdf/jama_article.pdf (page 3) for a list of issues to discuss with your transplant team. You can also check http://www.transplantliving.org/living-donation for additional information about donation and transplantation.

Click here for detailed statistics on short-term complications from living donation (as reported to the United Network for Organ Sharing).

Back to top



How does liver donation work?

Some transplant centers perform living donor liver transplants. If you are considering donating a part of your liver to a friend or family member, contact the person's transplant center for more information. If the transplant candidate does not yet have a transplant center, contact centers in the candidate's area for information.

Donating a section of a liver is riskier than kidney donation, and much less common. Transplanting a piece of the liver works because the liver regenerates itself in both the donor and recipient after transplantation.

Besides being in excellent physical and psychological health, the liver donor must undergo extensive examinations and testing. A radiological imaging of the liver is done to assess the anatomy, liver volume and size. A liver biopsy may be performed.

Most often parents donate a piece of a liver to a child. Adult to adult live liver transplant is still relatively rare.

We recommend talking to your transplant center about their experience and success rates, which can give you critical information to help you make a decision. You can find statistics and information about living donation on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) web site at www.transplantliving.org.

The rest of this booklet relates to living kidney donation; talk to your transplant center for more information about liver donation.

Back to top



How does lung donation work?

Living lung donation involves two adults giving the right and left lower lobes from each respectively to an adult or pediatric recipient.

The potential donors' lungs must be the right size and volume. For adult recipients, the donors should be at least as tall as the recipient. Ideally, donors should not be overweight and should be non-smokers.

Potential donors receive a series of exams and tests including chest radiography, pulmonary function testing, ventilation-perfusion scanning and computed tomography, cardiac stress test.

Again, donating a lung is riskier than live kidney donation and the risks and benefits will be discussed with the transplant team.

Contact transplant centers for additional information about lung donation. You can find statistics and information about living donation on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) web site at www.transplantliving.org. The rest of this booklet relates to living kidney donation; talk to your transplant center for more information about lung donation.

Back to top



What about blood and bone marrow donation?

Blood and bone marrow donations save lives every day. For more information about blood donation, call the American Red Cross at (800) GIVE LIFE, or visit www.redcross.org.

For information about bone marrow or blood stem cell donation, contact the National Marrow Donor Program at (800) MARROW2 or at www.bethematch.org.

Back to top



  Next chapter »