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Answering Your Questions About Living Donation

The following provides general information about living donation. For additional information about the evaluation process, the surgery, risks and making the decision, please visit, NKF’s Living Donors Web site.

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.

What organs can come from living donors?

The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. People usually have two kidneys, and one is all that is needed to live a normal life. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.

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 (individuals who have been declared brain dead and their families have made the decision to donate their organs):

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

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 U.S. Go to to view all UNOS data. You can find statistics on the number of nonliving and living donor transplants performed at that particular center as well as the graft survival rates for the transplant recipient, the center and additional information about donation and transplantation.

The best source of information on expected donor outcomes is from your transplant team. See the list of “Elements of Disclosure” at (page 3) for a list of issues to discuss with our transplant team. You can also check for additional information about donation and transplantation.

Click here to read the full Q & A on Living Donation

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

Last Reviewed: 05/09/2017
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