Living-Kidney Donation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Answers about living-donation for anyone thinking about becoming a kidney donor.
Who Can Be a Living-Kidney Donor?
To become a living-donor, you must:
The transplant team at UPMC evaluates potential kidney donors on an individual basis to determine their eligibility. We ask that donors have an unselfish desire when wanting to help someone in need of a life-saving kidney transplant.
Do I Need to be Related to the Recipient?
While many wish to donate their kidney to a family member, one can donate to an unrelated person.
In some kidney transplant cases — depending on a blood type match and meeting other eligibility requirements — donors can take part in a kidney exchange or “match,” where two or more pairs of related donors and recipients donate to each other.
What are the Risks of Living-Donation Kidney Surgery?
Research has shown little long-term risk or affect on a living-kidney donor. Long-term survival rate, quality of life, general health status, and risk for kidney disease remain relatively unaffected by living-donation.
However, as with any major surgery, kidney donation surgery can include complications such as:
- Heart problems
- Blood clots
Death is very rare, but has occurred in a few cases.
Your dedicated living-donor kidney transplant team will discuss all potential risks to make sure kidney donation is the right choice for you.
» Learn more: Benefits and risks of living-donor kidney transplant.
What Does the Pre-Donation Evaluation Involve?
Before scheduling living-donor kidney surgery, you will undergo a thorough pre-donation evaluation to ensure that:
- You are able to tolerate the surgical removal of a kidney and remain healthy after the operation, with no increased health risks.
- The transplant recipient is able to benefit from your donor kidney.
During the appointment, you will meet with the living-donor transplant team and have the chance to ask any questions.
Who Pays for Kidney Donation Surgery?
During your donation evaluation, a dedicated UPMC transplant credit analyst will financially clear you for living-donor kidney surgery.
You will then receive a UPMC living-donor insurance card, which includes information about registration and billing.
How Should I Prepare for my Kidney Donation Surgery?
Your dedicated living-donor kidney transplant nurse coordinator will give you details on how to prepare for your surgery.
In general, we ask all organ donors to take necessary health measures to ensure surgery goes smoothly and to minimize risks of rejection to the recipient.
- Smoking: If you're a light smoker, please stop smoking at least one month prior to your kidney donation surgery. Because smoking can cause additional risks of the surgery, people who smoke heavily do not make ideal organ donor candidates.
- Alcohol and medications: Prior to surgery, you must be sober of drugs and alcohol. We also ask that you inform your living-donor transplant nurse coordinator of any medications that you take.
- Oral contraceptives: Donors should stop oral contraceptives around eight weeks prior to kidney donation to prevent blood clots after surgery. We strongly advise you to use alternative forms of birth control during this time.
What Happens on the Day of the Surgery?
On the morning of living-donor kidney transplant surgery, you will be admitted to UPMC Montefiore.
You will meet with the transplant surgeon and anesthesiologist who will:
- Review the surgery
- Obtain consent forms
- Answer any last-minute questions
Following the paperwork, you will proceed to the operating room where you will be connected to the machine that monitors your vital signs. You will also receive a sedative from the anesthesiologist.
Living-donor kidney transplant surgery can last 3 to 5 hours.
Your loved ones can wait in the Ambulatory Surgery Center waiting area where staff will provide frequent updates. The transplant surgeon will also visit with family members after the surgery is complete.
Will I Need to Take Any Medication after Donating my Kidney?
No. You will not need to take lifelong medications, but will be required to receive post-donation care at UPMC Montefiore to ensure proper healing.
How Long Does a Donor Usually Stay in the Hospital?
Following surgery, you will move to an inpatient post-surgery unit to make sure you do not require further treatment. From there, you will transfer to a transplant recovery floor where you could stay for a few days before going home.
How Soon Will I Be Able to Return to Work?
Most living-kidney donors take up to two months for a full recovery, depending on their occupation. During this time, you will visit the hospital for routine post-donation check-ups.
Who Can I Contact With Further Questions?
Feel free to call us with concerns or questions, toll-free at (877) 640-6746.
The transplant office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After 5 p.m. and on weekends, there is an answering service for urgent and emergency calls.