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

Myths About Living Donation

By Ilana Silver Levine, LMSW and Marian Charlton, RN, CCTC

The purpose of kidney transplantation is to give a healthy kidney to a person who has kidney disease. A successful kidney transplant may prevent the need for dialysis and the complications associated with kidney failure. For many years, the kidney that was transplanted had to come from a person who had died, from a "deceased donor." But there are not enough deceased donors for the number of people who need kidney transplants. Although living donor kidney transplantation is more common, there are still many myths associated with living donor kidney transplantation.

Myth #1: A kidney donor will have to take medications for the rest of their life

Fact #1: A kidney donor will be given prescriptions for pain medication and stool softeners at discharge from the hospital. These are only for the immediate post-operative period, after that time, a donor does not have to take medication.

Myth #2: A kidney donor will have debilitating pain for an extended period of time.

Fact #2: A kidney donor will have some pain after surgery from both the incisions and related to gas and bloating. This pain will diminish in the days following surgery and can be controlled with pain medication if necessary.

Myth #3: A kidney donor will be on bed rest following surgery.

Fact #3: A kidney donor will be out of bed and walking independently before discharge from the hospital.

Myth #4: A kidney donor will be in the hospital for an extended period of time after surgery.

Fact #4: A kidney donor will be hospitalized for two nights (i.e. if surgery is on a Tuesday, the donor will typically be discharged on Thursday).

Myth #5: A kidney donor can no longer participate in sports or exercise.

Fact #5: A kidney donor should be able to return to regular activities and exercise at approximately 4-6 weeks following surgery.

Myth #6: A kidney donor will have to follow a new diet plan following donation.

Fact #6: A kidney donor should eat a healthy, well balanced diet. There are no dietary restrictions following donation.

Myth #7: A kidney donor can no longer consume alcohol following donation.

Fact #7: While excessive alcohol use is always dangerous, a kidney donor can consume alcohol in moderation.

Myth #8: A female kidney donor should not get pregnant after donation.

Fact #8: A female kidney donor should wait 3-6 months' time after donation to become pregnant. The body requires time to recover from the surgery and to adjust to living with one kidney prior to pregnancy.

Myth #9: A kidney donor's sex life will be negatively affected by donation.

Fact #9: A kidney donor may engage in sexual activity when they feel well enough to do so.