Information for kidney donors

The University of Iowa Organ Transplant Center is the state’s most experienced living kidney donor program, having performed more than 700 living kidney donor transplants since 1990. Living donation takes place when a living person donates an organ (most often a kidney) for transplantation to another person.

Our surgeons perform minimally invasive laparoscopic kidney donor surgery, which allows the donor to be discharged home within three days and usually return to work within two weeks.

The University of Iowa Organ Transplant Center is the only program in the state to offer blood type incompatible living kidney donation. With this program, you may still be able to be a kidney donor to your intended recipient, even if you are not a blood type match.

We have many years of experience in working with individuals who are interested in being humanitarian or “non-directed” living kidney donors.

We evaluate our potential kidney donors during a convenient one-day series of tests and meetings. All kidney donor testing is covered by the recipient’s health insurance. We invite you to begin completing a health screening questionnaire for kidney donors.

Advice from the National Kidney Foundation

The living donor can be a family member, friend, or co-worker. In some cases, living donation may even be from a stranger, which is called nondirected donation or altruistic donation.

Advantages of living donor kidneys

Transplants performed from living donors may have several advantages compared to transplants performed from deceased donors: Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.

A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately and may last longer.

Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both the donor and recipient.

Criteria for kidney donation

To donate a kidney, you must be in good health and have normal kidney function and anatomy. If the donor meets the criteria for donation, additional testing will be required to check for further compatibility (cross matching and tissue typing) as well as physical examinations and psychological evaluation.

Immunosuppressive medications, which keep the recipient's body from rejecting the donor kidney, have improved greatly over the last few years. Now, a genetic link between the donor and recipient does not appear to be necessary to ensure a successful transplant.

To begin the process

Your first step is to contact the potential recipient's transplant center. You should ask to speak with the living donor transplant coordinator, who can give you additional information about living donation, and help you get started by completing a health screening questionnaire.  

Begin the Kidney Live Donor Health Screening questionnaire

You may wish to familiarize yourself with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) resources for living donation. And read more about living kidney donation at the National Kidney Foundation website.

If you live far away from the transplant center, you'll be referred to a center in your area for initial testing.

Other matters to consider

Medical expenses

The cost of the living donor's evaluation, testing and surgery are paid for by the recipient's health insurance.

Type of surgery

A kidney can be removed in either of two ways, the traditional open surgery or the laparoscopic technique. Your transplant team can provide you with information about the different types of surgery. Some donors may not be able to have laparoscopic surgery because of previous surgeries or anatomical variations.

Surgical risks

The surgery involves the same level of risk for the donor as any other major surgery. The majority of complications following surgery are minor and may cause a longer hospitalization. The risks associated with surgery and donation should be discussed with your transplant team.

Return to normal living

The length of stay in the hospital will vary depending on the individual donor's rate of recovery and the type of procedure performed (traditional vs laparoscopic kidney removal) although the usual stay is three to four days. Donors are encouraged to have good long-term medical follow-up with their primary care doctors. A urinalysis (urine test) and blood pressure check should be done every year, and kidney function should be checked every few years or more often if an abnormal urinalysis or blood pressure is found.

Meeting the recipient

The donor and recipient may or may not meet following a non-directed kidney donation. In either case, it can be an emotional time for both individuals. Jody Jones, a transplant psychologist, and others speak about what you may expect following a non-directed kidney donation and how to prepare for all outcomes in "If You Meet the Person Who Gets Your Kidney."

Last reviewed: 
May 2017

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