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FAQs Regarding Living Kidney Donation

Thousands of Americans die every year while waiting for a deceased donor kidney. What if you could save lives by donating your kidney now? Find out what’s involved.

Evaluation

When you’re ready to get started with the screening process, fill out the National Kidney Registry’s screening questionnaire here.

There’s no cost to be screened, and you can opt out of the process at any time.

To donate a kidney, a donor candidate must be in good physical and mental health. Individual transplant centers set age limit guidelines. Candidates must also have normal kidney function. There are some medical conditions that could prevent someone from being a living donor. These include, but are not limited to, uncontrolled high blood pressure, cancer, acute infections, or a high BMI.

Although age requirements vary at different centers, the minimum age at some centers is 18 years old. Some centers have no maximum age for kidney donation if the donor is deemed healthy and medically able to proceed.
On average, the testing process can take several months, but may be longer depending on the donor’s availability and acquisition of requested medical records.
The transplant center thoroughly tests both the donor candidate and the intended recipient to make this determination. If a direct match is not made, the transplant center will share options about donating on behalf of the intended recipient.

The National Kidney Registry’s Standard Voucher Program can be used by people who want to donate a kidney now but their intended recipient isn’t ready for a transplant. It can also be a great option for donors whose kidney isn’t a match for their intended recipient or who want to help their recipient get a better match. A better match usually means the transplanted kidney lasts longer. With this program, the donor donates according to their schedule and NKR matches their kidney with a patient in their national registry. The donor’s intended recipient receives a voucher prioritizing them for a living donor kidney through NKR.

For details, see NKR’s Voucher Program brochure.

For donors who don’t have a specific recipient in mind, NKR will match the donor’s kidney to a patient in their national registry. The donor can designate up to five loved ones as family voucher holders who are prioritized to receive a living donor kidney if they ever need a transplant.

For details, see NKR’s Voucher Program brochure.

If a potential donor is healthy enough to donate, but is not a match for their intended recipient, kidney paired donation (KPD), also called kidney exchange, gives that transplant candidate another option. In KPD, living donor kidneys are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant.

Available options include remote donation (the donor’s kidney is flown to the recipient’s location), a kidney-paired donation (described above), or a voucher donation (described above).

A donor candidate may withdraw their decision until the anesthesiologist renders them unconscious.

Yes. View the pdf version of NKDO’s brochure.

All donor candidates who submit the National Kidney Registry’s donor screening questionnaire will be given the option to talk to a Donor Connect Mentor. NKDO’s donor mentors are living kidney donors who can answer non-medical questions about living kidney donation and maintain contact with donor candidates throughout the evaluation process. To start the NKR donor screening process, click the “See if you’re qualified” button below.

Donor Protections

Living kidney donors are highly prioritized if they ever need a deceased donor kidney. 

The National Kidney Registry Family Voucher addresses this concern. At the time of donation, the donor gives a voucher to up to 5 family members. If one of them needs a kidney, the voucher holder is prioritized for a living kidney transplant.
Donors may not be compensated for donating a kidney. However, expenses associated with a donation (travel, lodging, etc.) may be reimbursed through the National Kidney Registry Donor Shield suite of protections, the National Living Donor Assistance Center, or American Living Organ Donor Fund. You may also be eligible for lost wage reimbursement through one of these organizations.

Surgery & Recovery

The recipient’s insurance pays for the donor’s testing, evaluation, and surgery.

Donors generally stay 1-3 nights in the hospital.
There will be abdominal tenderness and many donors experience shoulder pain and some cramping as a result of anesthesia. Recovery time and the level of pain depends on the individual donor. Walking after surgery helps speed the recovery process.
As with any surgery, there is a recovery period advised by the transplant center medical team. In general, donors are asked to refrain from heavy lifting for 6-8 weeks. Most donors return to their regular, pre-donation exercise routines post-donation. approximately 6 – 8 weeks.
Donors with desk jobs that don’t require heavy lifting can typically return to work within 2-4 weeks of surgery. Donors with a laptop working from home may feel ready to resume work within a week of surgery. Donors with more active jobs may need 6-8 weeks to fully recover. The transplant center will discuss option for lost wages accrued while taking time off work.
Most kidney donations are done laparoscopically with minimal noticeable scarring. In rare circumstances, a larger incision may be made if the surgeon deems it necessary for the safety of the donor.

Life After Donation

No. Donors are advised to limit consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Donors do not need to follow a special diet. Nutrient-rich foods will help you keep their weight in check and lower the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Those steps will help maintain kidney health. Some doctors recommend that donors avoid eating too much protein, especially from protein powder, supplements, or red meat. Excess protein may make the kidney work harder.
Yes. Alcohol is filtered through the liver, not the kidneys.
No, although there are risks associated with any major surgery. Studies have shown that kidney donors have a longer lifespan than the general population, presumably due to the fact that the average kidney donor is healthier than the average adult in the general population.
Yes. It is recommended that women who may plan to have children discuss this with their donor care team.

When you’re ready to get started with the screening process, click the button below.

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