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Living Donors

Living donor transplants have significant advantages - according to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), five-year success rates for people who’ve received a kidney through living donation are approximately 10% higher than those who received their kidney from a deceased donor.


Patient survival following deceased donor kidney transplant
One year
(2002-2003)
94.5%
Five years
(1998-2003)
81%
Patient survival following living donor kidney transplant
One year
(2002-2003)
97.6%
Five years
(1998-2003)
89.8%


Benefits of Living Donation

There are many reasons why kidneys received through living donation have greater success.  Some of these include:

  • Better health:  By avoiding the long wait time associated with the transplant waiting list, recipients are more likely to be in better health when they receive the new organ.
  • Better quality kidney:  A kidney received through living donation may be healthier than one received from a deceased donor.  Additionally, because recipient and donor surgeries are performed at the same time, the new kidney can go directly into the recipient.  That means it is without a blood supply for a very short time.  Kidneys from living donors also tend to begin functioning more quickly after transplant.
  • Better prepared:  Surgery can be scheduled for a time when both the donor and the recipient are in the best condition for surgery.  Also, many people find living donation to be more convenient, as it allows recipients to plan for child care while in the hospital, alert employers and coworkers of time off the job, and to arrange for care while recovering at home.
  • Better compatibility:  A series of medical tests will be performed prior to surgery to make sure that the donor’s kidney is a good match for the recipient’s body.  When an organ is donated by a family member, there is a higher likelihood of better compatibility.

 

Who Can be a Donor

Living donation has become a real option for more people today than in prior years.  That’s because donation no longer has to be from a blood relative.  It can now be from anyone who is medically compatible with the recipient including:

  • Friend or Family - There is a higher likelihood that recipient and donor will be compatible when organ donation is from a blood relative; however, friends or other loved ones may be compatible donors as well.
  • Humanitarian Donation - Sometimes a person decides to donate his or her kidney to someone in need-someone they do not know.  Mercy Medical Center has a humanitarian donation program.  If you are interested in exploring this option please contact our center for additional information.
  • Paired Exchange or “Kidney Swap” - Sometimes a recipient has a willing living donor, but initial screening tests reveal that recipient and donor are not medically compatible.  For these situations, many transplant centers have started paired exchange donation programs. A paired exchange involves two donors and two recipients.  If the recipient from one pair is compatible with the donor from the other pair (and vice versa), the option of a “swap” can be explored.

 

Becoming a Living Kidney Donor

The first step to a living kidney donation is making sure that both donor and recipient are comfortable with the decision.  Once the decision is confirmed, the transplant team will need to find out if the donor and recipient are compatible.  Additional testing and a complete physical exam will confirm that the he or she is fit for surgery.  In most cases we are now able to complete the living donor surgery with a laparoscopic approach through a three-inch incision. This less invasive surgical technique ensures faster recovery time for patients.  If your job does not include any lifting you may be able to return to work as early as 2 weeks.  However, you may not return to lifting for 6-8 weeks to prevent surgical complications.

Life After Donation

The human body has an amazing ability to heal itself.  After many years of living donation in kidney transplantation, donors have shown very few negative effects.  In fact, donors go on the live healthy, normal lives that are no different from when they had both their kidneys.  Donors will need to integrate regular visits to their physician to monitor blood pressure and general health.

Common Donor Concerns

  • Will donating a kidney affect one’s ability to become pregnant or father a child?  There is no evidence that kidney donation affects a donor’s ability to have children.  Women who donate will need to have a recovery period before they begin family planning.
  • Will donating a kidney shorten the donor’s life? Studies have shown that donation does not change the donor’s life expectancy.
  • Will donating a kidney increase the donor’s risk for kidney disease?   No. The transplant team will carefully evaluate your risk for kidney disease to ensure you will be healthy with one kidney.  It is important to monitor your health after donation and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent illnesses. 
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