Living donation can enhance the quality of life of the kidney recipient and be an extremely rewarding experience for the donor. However, as with any major surgery, kidney donation involves risks and recovery. It is essential that potential donors be educated about the donation process and carefully consider the physical, emotional and financial impact of donation before deciding if donation is a good choice for them.
People with kidney failure have several treatment choices. While dialysis can replace basic kidney functions, most people find chronic dialysis to be very limiting.
Transplantation is the preferred treatment for most patients with kidney failure; most transplant recipients lead a more active, less restricted and longer life than patients who remain on dialysis. Unfortunately, the waiting times for a transplant from a "deceased donor" are getting longer every year. Being able to receive a transplant from a living donor may allow recipients to be transplanted faster and these transplants tend to last longer than transplants from a deceased donor.
Living donation options
The most common type of living donation is called Directed Donation. This is where the donor knows their recipient who might be a family member, friend, coworker, church member or acquaintance.
However, some people want to be living kidney donors even though they do not personally know someone in need of a transplant. These donors are referred to as Non-Directed, "Good Samaritan" or "Anonymous" donors and can donate to a recipient who is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
A third donor option is called Paired Exchange. When blood tests reveal that a donor is not compatible with their intended recipient, both the donor and recipient may choose to enter an exchange or "swapping" program with other incompatible donor-recipient pairs. One of our living donor advocates will discuss this option with you if you and your recipient are not a match. OHSU participates in the first Pacific Northwest kidney paired exchange.
Most donors find donation a very gratifying experience. They take pride and pleasure in helping someone lead a healthier life. But donation is a very involved process and may not be a good choice for everyone. Please click on the links below to read more about living kidney donation.