Organ donation helps people with kidney disease become healthier. Some people get kidneys from deceased donors, but others receive a healthy kidney from a living donor. Living kidney donation is possible because your body can still function with only one kidney.
To qualify as a living kidney donor, you must be:
- Between 18 and 75 years old.
- Free from heart and liver disease, HIV, cancer, and diabetes.
The first step in the donation process is testing. Doctors need to make sure you and your potential donor are a good match. A kidney donor might be someone in your family, but friends or strangers might also be a good fit.
Three Types of Living Donor Kidney Donation
With living donation, people with end-stage kidney disease (kidney failure) can get a new organ more quickly. There are three types of living kidney donation:
- Directed kidney donation.
- Non-directed kidney donation.
- Paired kidney exchange.
Want to know if living donor kidney transplant is right for you? Here’s what you need to know about the 3 types of living kidney donation.
What Is a Directed Organ Donation?
In a directed kidney donation, the living donor chooses (directs) who will receive their kidney (recipient). When you give a kidney through directed organ donation, doctors transplant your kidney into someone you know.
But you can’t just decide to give — or receive — a kidney to or from a person. You’ll both need to have certain tests to make sure the donor’s kidney is a good match for the recipient. These tests include:
Blood type test
Doctors take a sample of blood from the potential donor and the recipient. They use these samples to see if certain blood proteins (antibodies) will work together to help the new kidney function. If the two of you are a good blood match, you’ll continue with more testing.
Tissue type test
You’ll also have blood tests to check whether the tissues in your white blood cells are compatible. These tests help doctors know if the recipient’s body might reject the donated kidney.
Doctors do another blood test before surgery to mix cells from the recipient with cells from the donor. If the recipient has antibodies that react to the donor’s cells, the new kidney might not stay healthy in the recipient’s body.
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What Is a Non-Directed Organ Donation?
When a potential kidney donor doesn’t know the recipient, the transplant is a non-directed organ donation. The donated kidney will go to someone on the national kidney transplant waiting list. Transplant teams will find a match and will do blood, tissue, and crossmatching tests between the donor and recipient.
What Is a Paired Organ Donation?
A paired kidney exchange (kidney swap) might be an option if someone you know wants to donate a kidney to you, but they are not a good match. In this case, doctors work to find another living donor who is compatible with you. Then, they match the person who wanted to donate to you with someone else on the kidney transplant waiting list.
The person who wanted to donate their kidney to you gives their kidney to someone else who is a match with them. The donor who is compatible with you gives their kidney to you. That way, two people who need a kidney have a donor who matches them.
Important Things to Know About Living Kidney Donation
Donating an organ is a big decision. If you’re thinking about donating a kidney, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the three types of living kidney donation.
Your transplant team will make sure you understand the risks of surgery and how kidney donation could affect your health. Talk to your doctor about living with one kidney. Your doctor can also help you learn how to prepare your body for organ donation.
UPMC, Who Can Donate a Kidney?, Link.
UPMC, Living-Donor Kidney Transplant at UPMC, Link.
National Kidney Foundation, Blood Tests for Transplant, Link.
American Kidney Fund, Types of transplants, Link.
American Transplant Foundation, Transplant FAQs, Link.
UPMC, Living Kidney Donation Frequently Asked Questions, Link.
About Transplant Services
For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.