There are several types of living donation.
A person may want to donate a kidney to a relative or friend but cannot because their blood types or tissue types do not match. If another pair in the same situation is found, an exchange may be possible between the two pairs.
If a non-matching relative or friend donates a kidney to the general pool, then their recipient would have priority on the waiting list for a deceased kidney from the UNOS list that is a match. The exchange not only benefits the person needing a kidney transplant, but also helps others still waiting by removing one person from the list.
This addresses the person who wants to donate a kidney to the general pool on the UNOS list, because they do not have a relative or friend in need of a kidney donation.
Living donor nephrectomy
There are two types of surgery to remove the kidney from the living donor:
- Open nephrectomy – a 6 to 8-inch incision made below the ribs on the right side of the abdomen
- Laparoscopic nephrectomy – four small 1-inch holes made below the ribs on the left side of the abdomen and a 2 to 3-inch incision at the pubic line on the lower abdomen to remove the kidney.
The type of surgery is dependent upon the CT scan results of the donor's renal anatomy. There are advantages to the laparoscopic nephrectomy, which include less pain and scarring, shorter hospital stays, and shorter recovery periods.
Advantages of living donors
- Better success rates – since the kidneys come from living, healthy people who are in better condition when the kidney is transplanted, the kidney tends to function better over time
- Shorter waiting times – typically there is a four to seven-year wait for a deceased kidney from the UNOS list. Each year, one out of 20 people waiting for a new kidney dies from kidney disease while on dialysis.
- More time to prepare – when you are on the waiting list for a deceased kidney, you never know when the surgery will happen. With living donation you can schedule surgery ahead of time for yourself and your living donor. This can make it easier to mentally and physically prepare for surgery.
- Living donors must also undergo a complete health assessment and evaluation managed by the transplant coordinator