UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

Living Donor FAQ


Q: How can I get information about becoming a living donor?
A: Call the transplant center  at 515-241-4044 / 1-888-343-4164 or fill out an online referral form. We will send you a packet of information.

Q: What do I do if I decide that I want to pursue kidney donation?
A: Complete your health history form provided in your packet of information, and send back to the Transplant Center. 

Q: What happens after I send back my health history form?
A: You will get a call from the Transplant Center and help answer any questions you may have. 

Q: What do I do if I wish to pursue donation?
A: You can start preliminary testing blood work to determine if you and the recipient have the same blood type.


Q: What happens at the evaluation?
A: We will set up your evaluation around your schedule the best we can. We will begin with more testing: chest X-ray, EKG, CAT scan, lab work. You will also meet with our transplant team - transplant surgeon, transplant nephrologist, transplant coordinator, social worker, psychologist and living donor advocate. 

Q: Who do I bring with me to my evaluation?
A: We encourage you to bring family/support person who will be with you throughout the donation process. 

Q: What if I do not live in the Des Moines area?
A: We will to do as much testing locally as possible before coming to Des Moines.

Q: What happens after my evaluation?
A: After the evaluation the pre transplant coordinator presents the information at the Listing Committee. The committee will make one of three decisions:  
    Provisional approval pending further tests

Q: What do I do after I am approved to be listed at Iowa Methodist Transplant Center?
A: The living donor coordinator notifies you of the Listing Committee's decision. 

Q: What if it is determined that I am not a candidate?
A: You will be notified of the reason and we will ask the recipient to seek other potential donors. The recipient will not be notified as to why you are not a candidate.

Q: What if I decide to not pursue kidney donation?
A: You have the right to change your mind at any time! The recipient will not be notified to the reason. This is kept confidential. 


Q: How long is the donor surgery?
A: The surgery itself takes 3-4 hours. The surgery is done laproscopically, which is minimally invasive. 

Q: How long am I in the hospital?
A: You will be in the hospital 48-72 hours. You will be given pain medicine to help with the discomfort of the surgery.  
Q: Am I at increased risk of kidney disease myself after I donate?
A: No. Donors are carefully selected and are less likely to develop kidney disease when compared to the general population. The safety of the donor is priority and kept separate from the recipient's needs. 

Q: How much kidney function am I left with after donation?
A: Seventy percent. The remaining kidney grows and becomes a better filter, which means that only about 30 percent of kidney function is lost. In younger individuals (under 40), the total kidney function can return close to pre-donation levels.

Q: What is my risk for needing dialysis after I donate a kidney?
A: Four-tenths of a percent (0.4%). The baseline risk of developing kidney failure is the same as that of the general population with the same risk profile. This is extremely rare. In your evaluation testing we look very carefully at your risk factors and testing results to make sure you are healthy enough to donate a kidney. (If a donor would end up needing a kidney transplant themselves, they get priority on the waiting list. The risk of end stage kidney disease, and the need for dialysis or receiving a kidney transplant is between 0.10 to 0.52%; this risk may be higher if the prospective donor is African American).

Q: What is my risk of dying from the donor surgery?
A: The risk of dying from living kidney donor surgery is 0.04 percent. 

Q: What is the follow up after donation?
A: You will follow up in our Transplant Clinic at 2 weeks and 6 weeks after surgery. We will also follow up with phone call and labs at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years post-donation.

General Questions

Q: How long does a living donor kidney typically last after it is transplant?
A: Half of the living donor kidneys are still functioning after 15 years. This compares to only 10 years for deceased donor kidneys.

Q: What if my blood type does not match the person I want to donate to?
A: Incompatible kidney transplants can be done with great success, however, it requires desensitization. A more preferred method is to exchange donors either locally or in the national paired exchange program. 

Q: I have high blood pressure. Can I donate?
A: Yes, if it is easily controlled and the medical evaluation places you at low risk for kidney disease.

Q: I am overweight. Can I donate?
A: Yes, if your risk of developing diabetes is low and the medical evaluation places you at low risk for kidney disease.

Q: What if I don't know anyone who needs a kidney transplant, but I still want to donate?
A: You are classified an altruistic/humanitarian donor. We will run a list of compatible patients waiting for a kidney at this center to find a potential match. You will also have the option to participate in a national/local paired donor exchange.

Q: Can I have children after I donate a kidney?
A: Yes. You should plan accordingly and allow recovery time in between donation and pregnancy.

Q: What if my blood type doesn't match my recipients?
A: We are part of the national paired exchange pilot study though UNOS. 

Q: Can I live with only one kidney?
A: Yes, you only need one healthy kidney to live a long, healthy life.