Living Donor: Kidney

Patients with kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have several options for treatment, including hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and renal transplant.

Transplantation can significantly extend the life of ESRD patients. Kidneys for transplantation are made available through deceased donors and living donors.

Living donor kidney transplants achieve long-term results that are significantly better than deceased donor transplants, and they eliminate the risk of patient deterioration or death while on the waitlist. The UT Southwestern Medical Center kidney transplant team strongly encourages patients to actively pursue living donor kidney transplantation whenever possible.

Who Can Be a Kidney Donor?

A living donor should be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • In good mental and physical health
  • Voluntarily willing and fully prepared to undertake the transplant process

Age, gender, and race are not factors in determining a successful match. Every potential donor is evaluated on an individual basis.

Types of Living Donations

There are four types of living donations:

Living Related Donation 
From a blood relative, such as a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin
Living Unrelated Donation 
From someone who is not a blood relative, such as a spouse, friend, coworker, relative-in-law, or church member
Non-Directed Donation 
Living donor does not direct his or her donation to a specific individual, but rather to the most compatible person on the waitlist
Paired Donation 
Matches incompatible donor and recipient with another incompatible donor/recipient pair and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs
Paired Donation Illustration

Benefits of Living Donation

Living donor kidney transplants have several advantages over transplants from deceased donors.

Better Results 

According to the U.S. Procurement and Transplantation Network, living donation provides for better allograft (another name for the transplanted kidney) and patient survival than deceased donor transplantation.

Better Health

Living donor transplantation allows recipients to have their transplants sooner and spend as little time as possible on dialysis. As a result, most patients are in better overall health at the time of transplant.

Better Quality Kidney

During a living donor transplant, the recipient and donor surgeries are performed at the same time. The surgeon places the new kidney into the recipient immediately after removal from the donor. This means the living donor kidney is without blood supply for only a very short time as compared to a deceased donor kidney. As a result, kidneys from living donors tend to have fewer complications, typically function immediately, and do better overall in the long term. Additionally, recipients of living donor kidney transplants experience less rejection and may be able to be maintained on fewer anti-rejection medications and at lower doses after surgery.

Better Prepared

Living donation transplants can be scheduled when both the donor and recipient are in the best condition for surgery. As a planned surgery, it allows the recipient to schedule in advance for time off from work and for childcare and home care during recovery.