Deciding to donate a kidney is an intensely personal decision with priceless benefits to you, your recipient, and potentially to others in need of a kidney transplant. Research shows that people who receive kidneys from living donors live longer and have fewer complications than those who receive kidneys from deceased donors. The Duke kidney transplant team can help you understand the kidney donation process. Should you decide to donate your kidney to someone you know or if you prefer to be an altruistic, non-directed donor (meaning you do not have an intended recipient -- that is, donating to a stranger), we will be with you every step of the way.
Begin the Process
This preliminary, confidential survey will help us determine if it is safe for you to be a kidney donor.
Kidney transplant recipients experience many benefits when they receive a kidney from a living donor.
Kidneys Last Longer
According to the National Kidney Registry, kidneys transplanted from living donors can last nearly twice as long as kidneys from deceased donors -- sometimes up to 30 years or more.
Shorter Wait Time
Instead of your recipient having to wait for a call from the waitlist, the date and time of the surgery can be scheduled as soon as you and your recipient are ready.
Kat Williams and her kidney donor, Pat Gearity, discuss their transplant journey with hope of inspiring others to give the gift of life.
Faster Recovery, Fewer Post-Transplant Complications
Because a living-donor kidney almost always works immediately after its placement, the recipient usually recovers faster and is less likely to experience post-transplant complications.
Kidney Donor Benefits
Many donors find their lives are enhanced by the emotional benefit and sense of pride that comes from knowing they helped someone in need. Studies show that up to 98% of living kidney donors would make the decision to donate again.
These are the key steps in the living kidney donation process.
A comprehensive physical and psychological evaluation process will confirm that you can undergo the surgery with no ill effects, physical or otherwise. We select only kidney donors we are confident can return to their normal lives after surgery. If you don’t live nearby, preliminary testing can be done in your own community, and the results are sent to us.
Kidney Donation Surgery
In most cases, transplant surgeons use minimally invasive techniques to remove your kidney. Two small incisions are created in your abdomen, through which a camera and other instruments are inserted. The kidney is removed through a slightly larger opening in the bottom of the abdomen. The surgery lasts about three to five hours.
Kidney Donation Recovery
Kidney donors typically spend one night in the hospital and go home the next day. You should be able to return to work within one to two weeks and should be back to most of your usual activities within a few weeks. Lifting restrictions are in place for 12 weeks.
Follow-Up Medical Care
Follow-up appointments with the transplant team are scheduled for one to two weeks after surgery and again at six months, one year, and two years. You can return to Duke to see a member of our team, or you can arrange for your primary care doctor to collect follow-up blood and urine samples and record vital signs like your weight and blood pressure.
Should You Donate Your Kidney?
If you are considering living kidney donation, you may want more information to help you make your decision.
Our Experience with Kidney Donation Surgery
More than 40 years of kidney transplant expertise is collectively shared among our nationally-recognized kidney transplant surgeons.
One-Third of Our Kidney Transplants Are from Living Kidney Donors
We make every effort to ensure you do well, and we have the expertise to handle any situation that arises.
We Use Minimally Invasive Procedures to Remove Your Kidney
Our transplant surgeons use the most up-to-date, minimally invasive surgical techniques to remove your kidney for transplant. This innovative approach was pioneered at Duke and results in smaller incisions, less pain, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery.
Kidney donor surgery takes place at Duke University Hospital. Pre- and post-surgery appointments take place at our nephrology clinics in Durham.
Options If You and Your Recipient Don't Match
If you and your recipient aren’t a match, you may have other options that will allow your donation to proceed.
ABO-incompatible Transplantation: Your recipient receives medical treatments before and after transplant that allow them to receive your kidney even if your blood types differ.
Paired Exchange: You and your intended recipient can participate in a kidney swap. This means your intended recipient receives a kidney from someone else’s donor, and their intended recipient receives your kidney. A kidney swap is an option for donor/recipient pairs who have different blood types or who are not blood compatible. It can also help compatible pairs determine if a kidney is available with a better chance of working better and longer.
HIV-Positive Kidney Transplants
The HOPE Act made it possible for HIV-positive donors to offer their organs to HIV-positive recipients. Duke is the only transplant center in North Carolina, and one of just a few in the nation currently approved to perform HOPE Act, living donor kidney transplants. In 2019, our kidney transplant surgeons performed the first live kidney donation under the HOPE Act in North Carolina and the Southeast region, and the second in the United States.
Your Health and Well-Being Are Our Priority
The life-sustaining gift of donating a kidney is an intensely personal, physical, and emotional journey. Our kidney transplant team includes kidney specialists, kidney transplant surgeons, social workers, independent living donor advocates, and transplant coordinators. This team is yours, completely separate from your recipient. We are dedicated to helping you fully understand the procedure and make a decision that is right for you.
We Are On-Call 24/7 for Your Medical Needs
The transplant coordinator helps you plan your visit, answers any questions you may have, and facilitates your personalized experience through the entire process: donation, recovery, and follow-up.
Your Advocate Advises You
The sole function of your independent living-donor advocate is to represent and advise you on all decisions to be made. This person has a medical background and can provide in-depth answers to your questions.
You Can Change Your Mind
You can change your mind, delay, or end the donation process at any time. You may speak with any team member or your advocate for assistance with this.
Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals
Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2022–2023.
Before Your Kidney Transplant Care Guide (PDF, 1.8 MB)
After Your Kidney Transplant Care Guide (PDF, 1.7 MB)