can you live without kidneys

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs found just below the rib cage. Most people are born with two — one on each side of the spine.

Your kidneys are two of the most vital organs in your body. They work to keep your blood stable, allowing your body to function properly.

Each day your kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood into urine. They prevent the buildup of waste and extra fluid, and produce hormones that help your body:

  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Produce red blood cells
  • Build healthy and strong bones

Can you live without kidneys?

Because your kidneys are so important, you cannot live without them. But it is possible to live a perfectly healthy life with only one working kidney.

Learn more about the kidney transplant program at UPMC Hamot

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Reasons for Having One Kidney

Again, most people are born with two working kidneys.But sometimes, just one kidney works. And some people are born with only one kidney.

The reasons for this may vary and can include:

  • Renal agenesis — a condition where someone is born with only one kidney.
  • Kidney dysplasia — a condition where someone is born with two kidneys but only one of them works.
  • Kidney removal — certain diseases may require you to actually have one of your kidneys removed.
  • Living-donor kidney transplant — you can donate one of your kidneys to a person who needs a kidney transplant.

Living-Donor Kidney Transplants

Because it is possible to live with only one kidney, you can donate one of your working kidneys to someone else.

There’s a growing kidney transplant waiting list, but a shortage of organs. Living-donor kidney transplants are a life-saving option for someone in need of a kidney transplant.

During a living-donor kidney transplant, doctors remove one of your healthy kidneys and transplant it into a person with a failing kidney. After you heal, you can go back to your normal daily routine and live a healthy life with one kidney.

RELATED: The Impact of One Organ Donor

Become a Living Kidney Donor

With more than 96,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant, living-donor kidney transplants save lives.

So, while you need at least one kidney to live, you can donate the other to someone in need.

To be a living kidney donor you must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 75.
  • Be in good general health.
  • Be free from diseases that can damage the organs — such as diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or cancer.

About Transplant Services

Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.