The Living Donation Process

Are you a candidate for donation?

Once you’ve decided to be a kidney donor, the next step is for you to be tested. The testing process is much like the patient’s transplant evaluation process. The goal is for the transplant center to determine if you are healthy enough to donate a kidney. They will consider your age, health, future risk of kidney disease, and more. The goal is to make sure that you can live a full, healthy life after giving away a kidney.

Are you a match?

If you are healthy enough to donate, the transplant center will also determine if you are a match for the person you want to give a kidney to. They’ll look at blood type and other genetic factors. If you are a match, great! Transplant surgery can be scheduled. If you are healthy but not a match, you may be able to still donate. There are situations when another recipient may be a match for you, and you swap. Their donor gives your intended recipient the kidney and you give a kidney to their intended recipient. This swapping can happen between more than two pairs. There are chains with nearly 50 people that swap donors at one time so that everyone gets a matching kidney. So, if you are willing to donate, getting tested at a transplant center is still a great idea. Even if you know in advance that you may not match, you still might become part of a paired or chain donation.

Donor surgery and recovery:

As a kidney donor you will go through surgery the same day as your recipient. You will be given general anesthesia so you sleep through the procedure. The surgeon will make small incisions and remove the kidney. They’ll sew you back up, and that’s it! The surgery team will then quickly get to work on transplanting the kidney.

Living donor FAQ

Many potential kidney donors have the same questions. Here are answers some of the most common ones here. This may help address your concerns.

Question: Are there long-term health issues for donors living with one kidney?

Answer: Studies show no long term health affects.

Question: What happens if a donor needs a kidney later in life? 

Answer: Being a kidney donor gives you priority status on the transplant list, if you need a kidney in the future. This does not put you immediately at the top of the list, but improves your position.

Question: Do donors need to take anti-rejection medications after surgery? 

Answer: No. The person receiving the kidney transplant is the one that will take the anti-rejection medications. 


Question: Do I get paid time-off for recovery after kidney donation? 

Answer: There is no national policy. Your employer may or may not offer paid time-off for organ donation recovery. Donors are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so you do not need to worry about losing your job. Talk to your boss or human resources department for more information. 


Question: Does health insurance cover the cost of donation surgery? 

Answer: Generally, the health insurance of the person you are donating to will cover costs related to the donation, including surgery. Work with the transplant center for more details. 


Question: Will donors be able to drink alcohol with one kidney? 

Answer: Your liver is the organ that is primarily responsible for handling alcohol. If you were able to consume alcohol responsibly before surgery, you will likely be able to afterwards. Talk to your doctor for specific guidance. 


Question: Is the kidney donation surgery risky? 

Answer: Kidney donation is a major but routine surgery. It is fairly similar in risk to having another organ removed, like the appendix. Serious complications are very rare. Talk to your transplant center for more information.

Source: The DaVita Transplant Smart Booklet


  • Andrew Needs A Kidney