Kidney Transplant

Living Donor Program

More than 4,000 people in Illinois and more than 88,000 in the U.S. are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The wait time for a deceased-donor transplant can extend over several years. Fortunately, living kidney donation can dramatically decrease wait times to months or weeks instead of years for those with living donors. Transplantation from living donors is becoming a more common procedure because of the limited supply of deceased-donor organs and the excellent function of the kidney after living donation.

Living Donation Advantages

Living donor transplants have several advantages over deceased donor kidney transplants. In general, with living donor kidney transplants:

  • Donor organs are available sooner, which can limit or possibly eliminate the need for dialysis.
  • The donated kidney spends less time outside of a living body, which improves the viability of the organ.
  • There is a greater chance of the donated kidney functioning immediately after transplant.
  • Patients have more flexibility scheduling their transplant surgery.
  • Living donor organs often come from relatives of the patient, who may be a closer match.

Incompatibility can be worked out before the transplant by filtering the blood of the recipient, or participating in a kidney exchange program. Both of these options are available at Loyola.

Advancements in Surgery for Living Donors

In most cases, minimally invasive surgery is used with living donors, which reduces the risk of complications and shortens the recovery period. The operation can be accomplished in about 2 to 3 hours, and the kidney is removed using four small incisions.

With the use of minimally invasive techniques, there is less scarring and blood loss, decreased pain after surgery and a faster recovery. The donor’s average hospital stay is 1 to 2 days. Donors typically resume normal activities after a healing period of 3 to 6 weeks.

Support Network & Living Donor Advocate

Our multidisciplinary team works one-on-one with donors from the initial evaluation through post-surgery follow-up to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Loyola’s transplantation coordinators are available around the clock to oversee all aspects of a patient’s care, whether at home or in the hospital. And Loyola’s kidney transplant social workers counsel patients and their families about the process of donation, and provide resources and referrals if other services are needed.

You will also meet with a living donor advocate (LDA), who will provide support for you during the process. The LDA’s sole responsibility is to you, the donor. By regulation, the LDA is not allowed to be involved in the care of the recipient.

Your LDA is there to ensure that you are making the decision to donate free and clear of any coercion or pressure. It’s very important to understand that anything discussed between you and your LDA is strictly confidential. Nothing you discuss with your LDA, or anything related to your medical condition, is ever discussed with the team caring for the recipient. You are free to change your mind about donation at any time. The only two categories for a living donor are eligible or ineligible. Even if you are completely healthy and eligible to donate, but you have changed your mind, you can tell the LDA in complete confidence that you no longer want to donate. The LDA will then communicate to the recipient’s team that you are not eligible. The only thing ever told to the recipient and the recipient’s team is that you are not eligible to donate. No one will ever pressure you to donate. By law, all transplant programs with the option of living donation must have an LDA as part of their team.

Once all your test results are in, the multidisciplinary team will discuss your case. If you are approved as a living donor candidate, your coordinator will help you with scheduling the surgery at a convenient time for you and your recipient. After surgery, they will help you with the discharge planning and follow-up visits. 

Donor Eligibility

Living donors are usually over the age of 18 and must be in good health.

Donor Screening

Blood tests for blood type and compatibility are the first step in determining if a donor is suitable. This is followed by a series of physical tests, which the nurse coordinator arranges. We will inform you of the risks involved and have you meet with a psychologist to make sure you are completely prepared before making such an important decision. A medical history, physical exam and meetings with other members of the team are also required.

Donor Costs

The donor is not responsible for test or surgery expenses. The recipient’s insurance company pays for the work-up process, surgery and post-surgery clinical visits. Patients are responsible for their own transportation, lodging and any lost wages from missed days at work. However, the donor advocate can help determine whether potential donors are eligible for financial assistance.

Care after Surgery

Kidney donation generally does not compromise the donor’s lifespan, lifestyle or increase the risk of kidney failure. Patients will receive post-operative care in a state-of-the-art hospital facility. Patients who come to Loyola for a transplant also benefit from our extensive network of primary-care and specialty-care sites located throughout the Chicago area, making it more convenient for them to receive care prior to and after donation surgery. Living donors will have follow-up care for at least 2 years. Your medical team will help you with a smooth transition to your primary-care physician, who can be updated on your care every step of the way through a secure information portal called LoyolaConnect.

Questions?

For an appointment or more information, call (708) 327-4TXP, (708-327-4897), to speak with a Transplant representative.

A donor's perspective

Barbara Thomas, a secretary at Loyola's Transplant Center, tells how she decided to give a kidney to the father of her son's friend.

A surgeon's perspective

Dr. Paul Kuo, the chair of surgery and a transplant surgeon at Loyola, explains the advantages of living donation for recipients and the process of becoming a living kidney transplant donor.

A recipient's perspective

Kidney transplant recipient James Love describes how the donation changed his life.
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