Kidney Transplant: Donation Process

Once your doctors decide that you’re a good transplant candidate, the search for your new kidney begins. You may receive a kidney from three possible sources – a living person related to you by blood, a living person unrelated to you such as a spouse or a close friend, or a deceased donor. 

Living Related Donors

Living donors are usually from the immediate family: mother, father, sisters, brothers, or children. They may also be cousins, aunts, or uncles.

For a healthy individual, donating a kidney is safe, and recovery is rapid. Having only one kidney will not affect the donor’s health in any way. You and the donor’s kidney must be compatible for your new kidney to work properly.

To determine compatibility, blood types are compared using the following parameters:

  • ABO (blood type) compatibility
  • Crossmatch compatibility
  • Matching human leukocyte antigens (HLA), which are located on the surface of kidney cells and play an essential role in the immune system and are thus key to determining compatibility

Blood Type Compatibility

Blood TypeCan Receive a Kidney FromCan Generally Donate a Kidney To
O O A, B, AB, O
A A, O A, AB
B B, O B, AB
AB A, B, AB, O AB

Living Unrelated and Deceased Donors

Occasionally, a person will receive a kidney from a living but unrelated individual, such as a spouse, in-law, or very close friend. However, more than half of all kidney recipients receive organs from deceased (cadaveric) donors. Because of a shortage in donor organs, the waiting period for suitable cadaveric kidneys may last up to two years.

When a kidney becomes available, certain patients will receive first consideration:

  • Those who are more compatible with their donors
  • Those who have been waiting the longest
  • Those who are most critically ill