Am I eligible to become a kidney donor?
You need to undergo a comprehensive evaluation if you decide to donate one of your kidneys to a family member such as your spouse, children, siblings, and parents or to a friend or altruistically to a stranger. You are NOT eligible to become a kidney donor if the doctor’s assessment suggests that kidney donation is not safe for you.
What are the steps for kidney donor evaluation process?
- The first step is the Initial Interview and if there is more than one potential donor, establishing compatibility. Potential donors should fill out the online questionnaire.
- The second step is the assessment about your overall health status. A comprehensive medical history and physical examination is performed. It is very important that you declare all health-related history such as having high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, kidney stones, stroke, heart and lung diseases and surgical interventions. You need to report your family history, especially family history of kidney diseases. A psychosocial assessment will be performed as well. History of smoking, drugs and alcohol needs to be discussed.
- After the complete medical and psychosocial clearance is complete, the donor will meet with the surgeon to discuss the risks of donor surgery. Once the donor is fully cleared to proceed, the surgery date for the donor and recipient can be scheduled, at their convenience.
What tests do I need during the evaluation process?
During your evaluation, the transplant team will complete urine and blood tests to assess your kidney function, blood chemistries, blood cell counts, liver function and exposures to infections such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis. An electrocardiogram (ECG) needs to be performed to assess the heart. Chest X-ray and abdominal CT scan are the required imaging studies. Other tests such as heart exercise test and cancer screening might be required.
How do I know if my kidney is a match for the recipient?
The transplant team will check your blood type as well as the recipient blood type to see if they are compatible. A unique blood test also needs to be done which is called “crossmatch”.
It is possible that the recipient of the kidney has an “allergy” to the donated kidney so the recipient's body may reject the donated kidney. Such allergy is due to some substances called “antibodies” which are present in the recipient's blood. In order to make sure that the recipient does NOT have those antibodies against your kidney tissue, the “crossmatch” test is performed. Briefly, a sample of your blood is combined with a sample of the recipient's blood. If the recipient has antibodies to the donor, this will cause a "positive" reactivity during the crossmatch test. This may mean your recipient is incompatible to you. In the case that you and your recipient are not compatible, you may participate in UCLA's Kidney Exchange Program. This program allows the recipient and donor to enter a paired exchange registry, where the donor will donate to another recipient that is matched, and the recipient will recieve a matched kidney from a compatible donor in return.
Does kidney donation shorten my lifespan?
The answer is NO. Kidney donation is generally safe however it is not risk-free. There are some risks associated with any major surgery including surgery for kidney donation.
Studies have shown that kidney donors have a lifespan similar to the general population.
How often do I need to see my doctor?
UCLA recommends that you see your doctor every year.
Can I exercise after donating a kidney?
Yes you may exercise after donating your kidney, however there will be a brief period of exercise restrictions while you are recovering from kidney donation surgery.
Is there any specific diet that I need to follow?
UCLA recommends that you follow a healthy diet, balancing proteins, carbohydrates and fats. There are no dietary restrictions.
What if more than one person offers to donate?
Blood testing will begin with only three donors, to determine compatibility with the recipient. If you have more than three people who are willing to donate, they may contact the donor department to discuss their options. Once compatibility tests have been completed the recipient and donors must discuss which donor he/she will proceed with. The donor coordinator can help families decide which donor may be best for them.
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 and may depend on test results, which may indicate additional evaluation is required. A transplant date cannot be set until the donor has completed the 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 Kidney Exchange Program. In this program, incompatible donor-recipient pairs exchange kidneys so that each recipient receives a compatible organ.
For additional living donor information visit the UNOS Transplant Living website.