Living Kidney Donation
The decision to donate a kidney requires careful consideration. Kidney donors are special people, willing to share a gift that can only be given once to better another person's life.
Whether you are considering becoming a living donor for a family member, friend or someone you don’t know at all, we encourage you to contact our living donor coordinator, either by calling 703-776-8053 or by completing our online form
Becoming a Living Kidney Donor
There are many steps to become a living donor. Follow the links below to learn more about the details of the donor process. We want to be certain that ALL of your questions are answered fully. We encourage you to take as much time as you need to feel comfortable with your decision.
Please know that the Inova Kidney and Pancreas Transplant team members are here to care for your friend, family member or loved one who needs the kidney. But we are also here to protect you, both physically and emotionally.
Choosing to become a living donor is a choice. You can slow down the evaluation, take a break from the process or even change your mind entirely at any time. If you change your mind and decide you do not want to donate, you have the option of what we call a "medical out." Our transplant staff will inform the recipient that for medical reasons you are unable to donate.
HIPAA protects your personal medical information. By law your medical information cannot be shared with anyone outside of your medical team, including the recipient, unless you give specific permission otherwise.
Please note: The sale or purchase of human organs is a federal crime. It is unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration (money or anything of value) for use in human transplantation.
Living Donor Criteria
Living kidney donors can, but do not need to be, related to the person who will receive the kidney. All living kidney donors must be at least age 18, physically and emotionally healthy and competent to make decisions.
Our staff will discuss with you in detail the donor process and each of the steps involved.
Advantages and Alternatives to Living Donation
Advantages to Living Donation
- Better success rates than deceased donors
- Shorter waiting time for the recipient
- More time for the recipient and their family to prepare for the surgery
Alternatives to Living Donation
- Waiting for a deceased donor
- Paired exchange
Donor Evaluation Process
Once you are referred to the living donor coordinator as interested in becoming a living donor, you will complete the necessary paperwork before proceeding further. You will have as much time as you need to discuss the donation process with the coordinator. We want to be certain we have answered all of your questions.
You should also check with your life insurance company prior to donation to ensure you will not lose coverage.
You will meet with the coordinator, undergo blood and urine tests, a CT scan, chest X-ray and EKG. You will also talk with a dietitian and social worker.
You may be requested to have additional tests, such as a colonoscopy, pap and mammogram. These tests are the donor's financial responsibility.
Next you will meet with the nephrologist, transplant surgeon and the independent living donor advocate. Each donor is presented to the kidney team and must meet all the selection criteria before being accepted as a potential donor. Once accepted, surgery can be scheduled if the recipient is ready.
Reasons for Not Being Selected
Prospective donors may not be selected for a variety of reasons. There may be risk factors to the recipient that the healthcare team cannot share with you. If you are not selected you are free to see other centers that may use different selection criteria than Inova.
Donors will meet with a separate team than the recipient.
To ensure that you and the recipient of your kidney are compatible, your tissue must be mixed with the recipient's blood to ensure he or she does not reject it. This test is called a cross match.
Virtual cross matches can be done initially if the recipient is not sensitized. A final cross match is always done leading up to surgery.
If you and the recipient are blood type compatible and the recipient has NOT had a previous transplant, the chances that you will be cross match compatible are extremely good.
Prior to surgery, every living donor undergoes a CT scan to ensure they are anatomically able to donate a kidney. Each CT is individually reviewed by the surgeon to ensure the kidney can be safely removed and that it can be placed in the recipient.
The date of surgery is always scheduled with the donor so no undue pressure is placed on the donor by the recipient.
Our Inova surgeons pioneered the laparoscopic procedure for kidney donation in the 1990s and are recognized experts in this surgical technique. Most commonly you will undergo the laparoscopic surgery (see graphic below). Sometimes an open procedure may be necessary. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia and generally lasts between 3 and 4 hours. Blood transfusions are usually not required.
Donors stay in the hospital 2 to 3 days following the day of surgery. Recovery varies but generally takes 4 to 6 weeks. Many donors return to work much sooner depending on their pain tolerance, medication use and job type.
Donors will have their own private hospital room but will be on the same floor as the recipient.
Follow-Up Care and Long-Term Care
Once You're Home
You will be given a 24-hour phone number you can call with any questions or concerns after surgery. An RN and physician are always on call to assist you with your needs. For the first 2 weeks after surgery, check your blood pressure once a day.
- Bathe as normal
- Do not try to remove the surgical glue from your skin
- Come to your follow-up visit at the transplant clinic which will be scheduled about 2 weeks following surgery
Continued Follow-Up Care
Living donors will be contacted for further follow-up visits at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after donation. These are required visits and donors must commit to the follow-ups prior to surgery.
- Make certain all of your clinicians, including primary care doctors, specialists, OB-GYNs, dentists, urgent care practitioners and ER staff, know you have only one kidney
- If a woman, avoid pregnancy for 1 year after surgery and be certain your OB-GYN knows you have only 1 kidney
- Report to the transplant center any major infections or cancer you may be diagnosed with within 2 years of surgery to ensure the recipient was not exposed
- Continue with annual physician exams performed by your primary care doctor and maintain your health insurance
- Stay hydrated
- Check your blood pressure at least once a month
- Avoid chronic use of certain medications