How to become a living donor for kidney transplant
A kidney transplant can be a life-extending procedure for someone facing kidney failure. Transplant nephrologist Keith Superdock, MD, explained what you need to know if you’re considering becoming a living donor for kidney transplant to someone in need.
What does it mean to be a living donor for kidney transplant?
When it comes to kidney transplantation, a living donor transplant occurs when a healthy person chooses to give one of their two kidneys through surgical donation.
“Most of us are blessed with two kidneys with 10 times as much kidney function as any one of us needs to stay healthy,” Dr. Superdock said. “Physicians, typically urologists in decades past, had been removing people’s kidneys because of disease, whether it was a tumor or stone or some other problem. They noticed people could live completely healthy normal lives with one kidney. That prompted physicians in our country, back in 1954, to perform the first living donor kidney transplant in Boston. So, we’ve been doing living donor kidney transplant surgery in this country now for nearly 68 years.”
Who can be a living kidney donor?
To donate a kidney, Dr. Superdock said you must meet these criteria:
- Must have normal kidney function by all measures.
- You need to have two symmetric kidneys with anatomy suitable for transplant surgery.
- You can’t have any disease that could be transmitted to your potential recipient.
- There should not have any major health issues that would impact the survival of your remaining kidney.
- Must want to give freely without coercion or being paid.
“If you meet those simple criteria, you can donate a kidney to a loved one, a friend or a stranger in need. You would be expected to have plenty of kidney function to live a completely normal life thereafter,” Dr. Superdock said.
What medical conditions exclude a donor?
If someone had cancer or a life-threatening infection, they would not be able to safely donate their kidneys for fear of injuring the recipient.
In addition, if the donor had a major health issue that could destroy their remaining kidney, they would be encouraged to keep both their kidneys as they would need them later in life. The two biggest situations where that occurs is diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Unfortunately, many families have loved ones suffering from kidney failure due to diabetes and high blood pressure. Those issues are often seen throughout the rest of the family. This can make it difficult to find a suitable living donor,” Dr. Superdock said.
What does the living donor process look like?
The process to donate an organ typically looks like this:
Screening. The donor undergoes an evaluation to ascertain whether the donor has any chronic medical problems. These issues could put them at risk in the future. Such problems might include hypertension or diabetes.
Transplant workup. This is a multi-disciplinary workup, much like the organ recipient undergoes. It includes a comprehensive medical evaluation that includes lab work, a chest X-ray, EKG and CT angiogram.
“During the process, we explain what it means to donate a kidney. We speak with the donor about what it means short-term. We also talk about the surgical process, and what it means medically living life with one kidney thereafter,” Dr. Superdock said.
What is the recovery time?
Recovery typically takes about six to eight weeks for both the donor and recipient.
Why become a live donor?
“We have more than 1,000 patients across the state of South Carolina who are waiting for a deceased donor to give them a kidney. If your heart is so inclined to want to learn more about donation, we’ll be happy to educate you and tell you more about what it means to donate. You will certainly bless someone else by your generosity,” Dr. Superdock said.
Get your transplant questions answered
Learn more about Prisma Health’s Transplant Center, located in upstate South Carolina.Learn More About Transplant Services