The Living Kidney Donation Program
Both adults and children suffer from kidney failure and are now, or will soon be, in need of a transplant. People in need have been receiving transplants from family and friends and from deceased donors for many years, but there aren’t enough kidneys to help everyone. In order to increase the kidneys available for transplant and to lessen the suffering of those waiting, Intermountain Donor Services (IDS) and the area’s transplant centers have formed the Living Kidney Donation Program to increase the number of kidneys available for transplant.
Good Samaritan Living Kidney Donation
Good Samaritan donors are living donors who do not know the recipient, but make their donation purely out of selfless motives. This type of donation is also referred to as anonymous or non-directed donation. Recipients are those at the top of the local wait list.
Kidney Paired Donation
A paired donation consists of two donors who are incompatible with their intended recipients. The two recipients swap donors so that each can receive a compatible kidney. Once the evaluations of all donors and recipients are completed, the two donations and transplants are scheduled simultaneously.
Kidney List donation
Kidney list donation can result when a live donor is incompatible with the intended recipient, and so donates to the wait list. In return, the intended recipient receives priority and advances on the wait list, receiving a kidney much more quickly; often the next available appropriate kidney.
How do I know if I can be a living donor?
Any healthy individual who has two kidneys and who is between the ages of 21 and 65 can potentially donate one kidney. In order to determine elegibility, a person must undergo a health evaluation and counseling. A medical history, physical examination, and a number of blood and urine tests are performed to determine health. Blood type, which must be compatible with that of the recipient, is also determined. Counseling is provided to ensure that every person considering kidney donation understands the surgery, the risks involved, and the recovery period.
Can I live with one kidney?
Almost everyone is born with two kidneys. After donating a kidney, a person can live a normal, long and healthy life. The remaining kidney grows bigger and simply takes over for both kidneys.
What are the risks?
No surgery is without risk. However, living kidney donation is very safe for healthy individuals. Nearly fifty years of research show that kidney donors have a normal life expectancy and lead normal lives. Extensive testing is done to ensure that kidney donation carries a minimal risk for potential donors. Some of the possible risks associated with any surgery are:
The risk of dying from any surgical complication is extremely small (perhaps two in 10,000). All potential donors will have the opportunity to discuss these risks with the surgical team performing the operation.
Donating a kidney does not increase the risk of future health problems or decrease life expectancy. However, every living donor should be aware that if something happens to the one remaining kidney, such as a severe traumatic injury or cancer, then kidney function could be compromised.
How long will the surgery take?
Typically, the preparation and the surgery itself take four to six hours. After recovering from anesthesia, donors can go to their hospital rooms. Although every donor is different, recovery should be uneventful. Feeling tired is an expected reaction to the surgery and anesthetic. There is pain lasting from a few days to several weeks as the muscles around the incision heal. Pain medications are prescribed and taken as necessary. The discomfort gradually decreases as the incision heals and physical activity is resumed.
Time and resources
It is common to take two to six weeks off from work to recover from surgery. IDS and the transplant programs provide no compensation for this time lost. Potential donors should contact their employers to see if paid leave would be provided for this absence.
Who pays for the donor’s medical evaluation, surgery, hospitalization and follow-up care?
Medicare or the recipient’s insurance pays for all medical costs for the donor’s medical evaluation, surgery, hospitalization, anesthesia, doctor’s fees, and follow-up care. However, all other costs, such as transportation and time lost from work, are not typically reimbursed.
Why living donation?
Patients who need kidney transplants have always been encouraged to find their living donors, usually a relative or close friend. The success rate is better and the waiting time is shorter than for cadaver kidneys (kidneys from people who have died). However, due to medical, personal or matching issues, sometimes it is not possible for family or friends to donate. There is often a long waiting time and ultimately not enough cadaver kidneys to provide for everyone in need. Living Kidney donation increases the number of kidneys available to those waiting for transplants. With enough Living Kidney donors, the waiting list for kidney transplants could be completely eliminated.
For more information on kidney donation, please contact us at