The Top 5 Questions about Living Kidney Donation

If you’re thinking about donating a kidney to a relative, friend or even a stranger, it’s important to get educated on the process so you understand what’s involved. To help you make this important decision, the NKF answers the top 5 questions about living donation.

Potential donors can also visit NKF’s Living Donation site to learn more and chat with past and potential living donors.

1. How can I be a living kidney donor to someone I know?

Your first step is to contact the potential recipient's transplant center. You should ask to speak with the kidney transplant coordinator, who can give you additional information about living donation and help you get started. If you live far away from the transplant center, you'll be referred to a center in your area for initial testing. To become an anonymous donor, contact your local transplant center.

2. What tests are used to determine if someone can be a kidney donor?

Testing may vary from transplant center to center but generally include the following: – Donor health assessment, including physical and psychological testing click here for a list of these tests
– Donor/recipient compatibility, including blood and tissue typing (to learn more about incompatible donor donation click here)

3. What is the recovery period and when can the donor return to normal activities?

The usual stay is 4 to 6 days, however this will vary depending upon the individual donor's rate of recovery and the type of surgery performed, either traditional versus laparoscopic kidney removal click here (to read about each)

After leaving the hospital, the donor will typically feel tenderness, itching and some pain as the incision continues to heal. Generally, heavy lifting is not recommended for about six weeks following surgery. It is also recommended that donors avoid contact sports where the remaining kidney could be injured. It is important for the donor to speak with the transplant staff about the best ways to return as quickly as possible to being physically fit.

4. What are the long-term risks of donation?

The risk of health problems is generally low for kidney donors. In fact, over 90% of living donors experience no complications whatsoever.

You will have a scar from the donor operation- the size and location of the scar will depend on the type of operation you have.

Some donors have reported long-term problems with pain, nerve damage, hernia or intestinal obstruction. In addition, people with one kidney may be at a greater risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Reduced kidney function

5. Who pays for living donation?

The cost of the living donor's evaluation, testing and surgery are generally paid for by the recipient's Medicare or private health insurance, if the donation is to a family member or friend. However, the donor might be responsible for travel expenses and follow–up care.

Time off from work and travel expenses are not covered by Medicare or private insurance. However, donors may be eligible for sick leave, state disability and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The financial counselor at the transplant center can answer any questions you have about the cost of donation.