Living Kidney Donation

Living Kidney Donors

As of June 9, 2015, there were close to 2,892 individuals on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the state of Michigan and 109,533 people across the nation. Due to the number of people on the kidney waiting list and the short supply of deceased donor organs, the waiting period for a deceased donor kidney can be several years. Therefore, if you are waiting for a kidney, having a live donor will significantly decrease your waiting time for a kidney transplant. Aside from the ability to get a transplant sooner, living donors also provide a kidney that will last much longer than a kidney from a deceased donor. Your parents, adult-age children, siblings, other relatives, in-laws, and close friends can all be considered for living kidney donation. Sometimes people volunteer as living donors without a designated recipient and they donate a kidney to someone they do not know. Our transplant team is always available to ensure all your questions are answered thoroughly, whether you’re in need of a transplant or considering donation. We offer education and counseling to help you make important decisions.

Who Makes a Good Donor for Kidney Transplant?

Kidney donors do not need to be related to the recipient, although they often are related. They can be friends, coworkers, members of the same church or other organization, or any other type of relationship. While many people are willing to be living donors, not everyone can become a living donor. Donors are carefully and thoughtfully evaluated in order to avoid unwanted medical or psychological outcomes.

While the individual circumstances of each potential donor are considered and testing must be done to determine compatibility, all potential donors must be:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • genuinely willing to donate
  • in good general health and reasonably physically fit

Certain medical conditions can make it likely a person will not be healthy enough to be a kidney donor (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, or history of stroke) but many other conditions may be acceptable (e.g. history of certain types of kidney stones, heart murmur, history of certain types of cancer). It is best to ask rather than assume someone cannot be a donor.

Individuals considered for living kidney donation are usually between 18 and 65 years of age. Gender and race are not factors in determining a successful match. Hypertensive donors over the age of 50 may be eligible under certain conditions.  While the risk to the donor is minimal, there is always some degree of risk associated with any surgical procedure. The procedure is done laparoscopically which helps minimize discomfort and ease recovery after the procedure. Donors undergo an education process about the operation and its risks, and are able to confidentially decide not to donate at any time.

Kidney Donation Process Overview:

  1. Contact the Transplant Center:  Individuals who wish to be considered to donate a kidney must contact the Living Kidney Donation Program at 1-800-333-9013 to indicate their interest in donation. The Transplant Center cannot initiate contact with potential donors until they declare their interest. Potential donors will speak with a member of the living donor team who will begin the process by asking questions that include demographic information, personal and family general health history, medications and social history.
  2. Blood Type Matching:  Potential living donors are tested to determine blood type.
  3. Tissue Typing:  Potential donors who are medically eligible will need to have blood drawn for tissue typing. Tissue typing determines compatibility with the recipient.  If the donor and recipient are not compatible, they may be eligible for our paired donation program. The paired kidney donation program is offered to patients who have donors that do not match their blood type or who cannot accept a kidney from a donor because there is a strong chance they would reject the kidney. The patient and donor are then paired with other patients and donors to find matches.
  4. Pre-Donation Evaluation:  Potential donors identified to move forward in the process will be given an appointment in the Kidney Evaluation Clinic. During this appointment the potential donor will be assessed by a nephrologist, a transplant surgeon and a social worker. In many cases, all required testing can be accomplished on the day of evaluation. We will not disclose any of your private health information to anyone (including the recipient) without your explicit approval.

Living donors are free to confidentially withdraw at any time during the donation evaluation process and are not obligated to donate.

To learn more about testing and living donation download our Living Kidney Donation booklet.

Are You Interested in Donating a Kidney? 

Begin the kidney donor process by submitting our Kidney Transplant Donor Form (for donors).

Paired Kidney Donation Program

Many patients in need of a kidney transplant may have individuals in their lives willing to donate a kidney, but unfortunately their friends or loved ones cannot donate because they are not compatible. The Kidney Paired Donation program is offered to patients who have donors that do not match their blood type or who cannot accept a kidney from a donor because there is a strong chance they would reject the kidney. This type of kidney donation is called a "paired kidney exchange" or "kidney swap." Visit our Paired Kidney Exchange page for more information about University of Michigan Transplant Center's Paired Kidney Donation Program.

Get Evaluated

To make an appointment to evaluate your need within our Transplant Center or ability to donate a kidney, call a living donor representative at 1-800-333-9013. Find a University of Michigan kidney-pancreas transplant doctor.