Kidney Donation from a Living Donor
Donate a Kidney to a Loved One or Stranger
Deciding to donate a kidney is an intensely personal decision with priceless benefits to your recipient. 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 a loved one, or if you prefer to be an altruistic donor (without an intended recipient -- that is, donating to a stranger), we will be with you every step of the way.
The Benefits of Living Kidney Donation
Kidney transplant recipients experience many benefits when they receive a kidney from a living donor. 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. The wait time for a living-donor organ is shorter, and the date and time of the surgery can be coordinated with you and your recipient. Because a living-donor kidney almost always works immediately after its placement, the recipient usually recovers faster and experiences few post-transplant complications.
The kidney donor benefits, too. 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 percent of living kidney donors would make the decision to donate again.
Should You Donate your Kidney?
If you are considering living kidney donation, you may want more information to help you make your decision. These questions and our answers offer more insight into our program as well as the kidney donation process.
What is your experience with kidney donation surgery?
- Nearly 40 years of kidney transplant expertise is collectively shared among our nationally-recognized kidney transplant surgeons.
- About one-third of the 150 kidney transplants we perform every year 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.
- 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.
Will I have support for my decision?
- 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, and transplant coordinators. We are dedicated to helping you fully understand the procedure and make a decision that is right for you.
- The transplant coordinator helps you plan your visit, answers any questions you may have, and facilitates your personalized guidance through the entire process: donation, recovery, and follow-up. Medical staff is on call 24/7 for any needs that may arise.
- You will also be assigned an independent living-donor advocate. The sole function of this advocate is to represent and advise you on all decisions to be made.
- You have the right to decide that donating a kidney is not for you. You can change your mind and delay or end the donation process at any time. You may speak with any team member or the advocate for assistance with this.
What if my kidney isn’t compatible with my recipient?
- If your kidney is not a match for its intended recipient, you may be able to take part in our center’s paired kidney exchange program in which donors essentially “swap” recipients so that each receives a compatible organ. This exchange can be discussed with your transplant coordinator.
How to Donate a Kidney
These are the key steps in the living kidney donation process. To find out whether you are a candidate to donate a kidney, click the link at the bottom of this page to complete a self-referral survey.
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 who we are confident can return to their normal lives after surgery. If you don’t live nearby, testing can be done in your own community and the results sent to us.
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. Surgery lasts about two or three hours.
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 in a few weeks.
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.