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Individuals normally have two kidneys, although a person can live a healthy life with only one. Living donation occurs when a person freely decides to donate one of their kidneys to someone in need of a transplant. Kidney donation is the most frequent type of living organ donation and is the most successful of all transplant procedures.

A living kidney donation comes most often from a family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister. A donor can also be a spouse, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger. A genetic link between donor and recipient, although beneficial, is not always required, due largely to improved anti-rejection medications.

A good living donor candidate is someone who is healthy, well-informed and makes a voluntary decision to donate one of their kidneys. Living donors must be in good general health with no evidence of significant high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease or hepatitis.

Several tests will be necessary to determine if the potential donor's kidney is compatible with the intended recipient.

Some advantages of living kidney donation

  • Time to plan.
    The organ donation and transplant surgeries can be scheduled when both the donor and recipient are in the best possible health. This helps ensure the quality of the donated kidney is optimal. In addition, the amount of time between removing the kidney from the donor and transplanting it into the recipient is shorter than for a deceased donation. This may help the transplanted kidney to function better and/or last longer.
  • Less waiting.
    The length of time the recipient waits for an organ to become available is shorter when the organ comes from a living donor. In addition, other recipients on the transplant waiting list who do not have a living donor themselves move up the transplant waiting list once the recipient of the living donor kidney is removed from the list. In this way other people waiting for a kidney transplant also benefit from a living donation.
  • Avoidance of dialysis.
    With a living donor kidney, the transplant surgery may take place earlier in the course of the recipient’s kidney disease, perhaps even before the person begins dialysis treatments.
  • Better organ survival rate

    There are three main reasons for this: 

    1. The kidney often lasts longer. A transplanted kidney from a living donor often lasts longer. This is partly because time can be taken to do the necessary tests to get a better tissue match between donor and recipient. A better tissue match means higher compatibility and less risk of organ rejection. 
    2. The kidney is usually healthier. The kidney from a living donor is usually healthier than an organ from a deceased donor and may last longer: 15 to 20 years on average, compared to 10 to 15 years for a deceased kidney donation. This is largely because extensive testing is done on the donor to ensure they have excellent kidney function. 
    3. The kidney functions right away. A kidney from a living donor usually functions in the recipient from the time it is transplanted. A kidney from a deceased donor may take days or weeks before it starts to work normally, and in the meantime the recipient may need dialysis treatments. 
  • Feeling of satisfaction.
    It is a positive psychological experience for the donor, knowing that he or she has helped someone in need. This compassionate gesture offers the individual waiting for a transplant an alternative to dialysis or a deceased donor transplant.
  • Peer Support Program
    Speak with someone who has previously donated a kidney. Our Peer Support Program matches potential living donors with someone who has had the experience of donating a kidney.