Living Kidney Donation Frequently Asked Questions


The greatest advantage of living donation is that the kidney tends to have more immediate function and last longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.

Other benefits include:

  • The possibility of a normal, dialysis-free life, which allows steady employment, more time for enjoyment of family and even such pleasures as a vacation.
  • The probability for the need of less medication, leading to fewer long-term side effects.
  • The convenience of being able to arrange the best time for surgery for both the donor and recipient.
  • The advantage of potential donors receiving a medical work up at no expense, whether or not donation eventually takes place.
  • The knowledge that it will not be necessary for the recipient to take a kidney from the limited pool of deceased donor kidneys, thereby leaving an opportunity for another person who has no hope of a living donor.

In pursuing a transplant, there are two options: a deceased donor transplant or a living donor transplant. Kidneys transplanted from living donors are superior because they last nearly twice as long as kidneys transplanted from deceased donors. The following are Frequently Asked Questions about selfless kidney donation:

Can you live with only one kidney?
Most people who are born without a kidney (or with only one working kidney) lead normal, healthy lives. A person may have had one kidney removed during an operation in order to treat an injury or a disease like cancer. A person may have donated one kidney to a person who needed a kidney transplant.

How long does it take to do a kidney transplant?
Kidney transplant surgery takes about 3 hours. During surgery, the donor kidney will be placed in your lower abdomen, blood vessels from the donor kidney will be connected to arteries and veins in your body, and the ureter from the donor kidney will be connected to your bladder.

Can you drink alcohol after donating a kidney?
You should not return to drinking alcohol after surgery until advised it is safe to do so by the transplant team. Avoid aspirin or non-steroidal medications, such as Advil or Motrin, for seven days before surgery.

How old is too old to be a kidney donor?
Johns Hopkins Study: You're Not Too Old To Donate a Kidney. Kidney transplants performed using organs from live donors over the age of 70 are safe for the donors and lifesaving for the recipients, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.

What will be expected of the donor?
The donor will be assigned a nurse coordinator who will be responsible for educating them through the donation process. The coordinator will work only with the donor and cannot disclose any health information to their family or the recipient. It is very important for donors to keep the recipient informed of the process as it moves along.

How long does the process take?
The donation process depends on how many tests are required of the donor and how quickly he or she is able to complete them. The average donor work up may take six months or more for completion. A transplant date cannot be set until the donor has completed their entire work up and has been evaluated by the surgeon. The transplant center does its best to accommodate the needs of the donor and recipient, but appointment times may be limited.

What if the donor is not a match?
When compatibility testing shows that the donor is not a match to the recipient there are other options to consider so that the recipient might not have to wait for a deceased donor organ to become available.

In some cases, the donor may still be able to donate directly to the recipient as part of our Blood Type (ABO) Incompatible Transplant Program. More testing must be done to decide if this is an option. 

If the donor cannot donate to the intended recipient, the donor-recipient pair might be able to participate in our Paired Donation Transplant Program. In this program, incompatible donor-recipient pairs exchange kidneys so that each recipient receives a compatible organ.

For more information contact the Team: