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You may be considering becoming a living kidney donor for a family member. Or perhaps for a friend or even someone who you don't know at all. People who need a kidney transplant can accept a kidney from any compatible donor, family member or not.

Perhaps you need a kidney transplant and are looking for information about how a person can become a living donor. Either way, the team at Inova Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program is available to answer your questions and provide the information you need. We pride ourselves on taking the time to talk with our donors so they understand in detail the entire process of living kidney donation.

Living Donor Education from Inova

General Information

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.

Donor Intake Form

When requested by our staff, please download, complete and return this donor form as instructed.

Details About Becoming a Living Kidney Donor

There are numerous steps to become a 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 staff 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

Living Donor Criteria

General Criteria

Living kidney donors can, but do not need to be, related to the person who will receive the kidney. The donor must be anatomically able to donate a kidney as determined by a CT scan review. Our staff will discuss with you in detail the donor process and each of the steps involved.

All living kidney donors must be at least age 18. The donor must be physically and emotionally healthy and competent to make decisions.

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

  • Dialysis
  • 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.

Phase 1

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.

Phase 2

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.

Compatibility

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.

Surgical Procedure

CT Review

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 Surgery

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.

kidney transplant

Recovery

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.

Long-Term Commitments

  • Make certain all of your clinicians, including primary care doctors, specialists, OBGYNs, 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 OBGYN 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