Living Kidney Donor Program

Exceptional Evaluation, Treatment and Care for Living Kidney Donors

More than 123,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which maintains the list. While the wait time for a deceased-donor transplant can last several years, living kidney donation can dramatically reduce wait times to months and lead to better outcomes.

In general, living-donor kidney transplants have several advantages over deceased-donor kidney transplants:

Incompatibility often can be worked out before the transplant by filtering the blood of the recipient or participating in a kidney exchange, such as with Loyola’s pay-it-forward program.

  • Kidney donors and recipients have more flexibility in scheduling their surgeries.
     
  • Living-donor kidneys are available sooner, which can limit or possibly eliminate the need for dialysis for end-stage kidney disease patients.
     
  • Living-donor kidneys often start to function immediately after transplant surgery compared to a deceased-donor kidney, which can take days or weeks to start functioning.
     
  • Living-donor organs often come from a relative and may be a closer match.
     
  • Short- and long-term survival rates are significantly better than with deceased-donor kidneys.
     
  • The donated kidney usually spends less time outside of the body, which improves its viability.

If you have made the decision to become a living donor, you likely have seen a loved one go through much suffering because of a serious condition—or you may have decided to donate to ease the suffering of an acquaintance or a stranger. Your kidney donation is life-saving for a patient with end-stage kidney disease; and research shows that healthy people who donate a kidney are at no greater risk for kidney disease than any other person.

Why Choose the Living Kidney Donor Program at Loyola?

As a world-class academic medical center, Loyola’s doctors perform and teach the latest surgical advancements. Our board-certified transplant surgeons are widely regarded and highly skilled in both traditional and minimally invasive surgery, which is often used for living donors as it leads to a quicker recovery and less pain.

Comprehensive Evaluation and Testing for Living Kidney Donors

Most people are born with two kidneys, which remove waste material from the blood and body in the form of urine, control blood pressure and stimulate the production of red blood cells. When one kidney is removed, the other adapts and can take on the additional work of the donated kidney. 

Weighing the possibility of donating a kidney is a large decision, and we want to be sure that you are truly ready to donate. Discuss what you are feeling with your care team, family, friends, counselor or clergy.

There are various requirements to become a living kidney donor, starting with a questionnaire about your health. If there are no conditions that would prevent you from safely donating, you will have the option to move forward with initial blood tests. 

If you are found to be a possible candidate for donation, you will proceed to a comprehensive medical evaluation. Your doctor will take a detailed personal and medical history and conduct a physical exam. You will be instructed on the transplant process and undergo testing, which may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Psychosocial evaluation
  • Urine test

As part of your evaluation, you will meet with a psychologist for an examination to ensure that you are completely prepared for making such an important decision. There are several factors you should consider prior to making a living kidney donation, such as how this will this affect your:

  • Current and future health
  • Emotional health
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Life insurance status
  • Physical health

It is important to know that you have the right to delay or stop the process at any time. Your care team is completely separate from the recipient’s team. Nothing you discuss with your living donor advocate or anything related to your medical condition is ever discussed with the recipient’s team. You are free to change your mind about donation at any time. The only two categories for a living donor are eligible or ineligible. You can tell your living donor advocate in complete confidence that you no longer want to donate; and the only thing ever told to the recipient and the recipient’s team is that you are not eligible to donate.

Learn more in our kidney transplant frequently asked questions.

What to Expect with Living Kidney Donation

Kidney donation generally does not compromise the donor’s life expectancy, lifestyle or increase the risk of kidney failure. Donors will have Loyola’s extensive network of primary care and specialty care specialists at their disposal, making it more convenient to receive care before and after donation surgery.

Once you have been approved as a donor, your care team will work with you and your kidney recipient to arrange the surgeries. This is usually scheduled four to six weeks in advance. 

Most living donors undergo laparoscopic surgery, which may take up to three hours. Loyola’s surgeons are highly experienced in minimally invasive surgery, which often is the approach used for living-donor surgery. The benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:

  • Less pain
  • Less scarring
  • Quicker return to normal activities
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Smaller incisions

There is a small chance that, for medical reasons, your surgeon will decide to use the traditional surgical approach.

In the operating room, you will receive general anesthesia and be set up for an IV. During your minimally invasive surgery, your doctor will make four very small abdominal incisions to operate thin tools and a camera. In the recovery room, your nurses will give you pain medication to ease any discomfort you may experience.

After surgery, you may be discharged from the hospital the next day. You will have lifting restrictions for about six weeks, and you should be able to return to most other activities four to six weeks after surgery. You likely will be given clearance to drive in about two weeks. 

Living donors have post-surgery follow-up care for at least two years. Your medical team will help you with a smooth transition to your primary care doctor, who will be updated on your care every step of the way.

Learn more in our kidney transplant frequently asked questions.

What are the Risks with Living Kidney Donation?

Living kidney donation does involve surgery, and with any surgery there are risks. In the case of kidney surgery, these may include:

  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Death
  • Developing high blood pressure
  • Hernia
  • Increased protein levels in the urine
  • Infection at incision site
  • Nearby organ damage or failure
  • Need for dialysis or transplant surgery
  • Pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Potential need for blood transfusions

Your Loyola transplant team will guide you through the decision to donate, as well as the evaluation, surgery and recovery processes. Your clinicians will help you weigh the risks of surgery to determine if you can safely donate. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 708-327-4TXP/708-327-4897.