Living Kidney Donation
Living kidney donation is when a living person gives one of their healthy kidneys to a person whose kidneys no longer function properly. A living donor can be a biological relative (parent, sibling, or child), unrelated (spouse or friend), or humanitarian (someone who donates their kidney to an unknown recipient on the national waiting list). According to the National Kidney Foundation, if someone is considering donating a kidney, he or she "must be in good health and have normal kidney function and anatomy." If the potential living donor meets the preliminary donation criteria, he or she will need to undergo further testing to ensure kidney compatibility.
Becoming a living kidney donor is not an easy process. There are several tests and steps that are done to determine if you can become a living donor. If you are considering becoming a living kidney donor, please read through this information as you make your decision. The Iowa Methodist Transplant Center hopes to prepare you for each step of your living donation process.
Advantage to Living Donation
- The surgery is planned for a time that works best for the donor.
- There is minimal down time during a living donor surgery. The kidney leaves the donor OR room and enters next door where the recipient is prepped and ready for transplant, allowing the kidney to work right away.
- On average, a transplanted kidney from a living donor will last longer than a transplanted kidney from a deceased donor.
- A transplanted kidney from a living donor functions right away, allowing the recipient to feel better quicker, avoid dialysis and allow for an easier recovery.
Before the procedure
We will do our best to schedule the kidney donation evaluation around your schedule. The evaluation will begin with more testing and lab work. You will also meet with the transplant surgeon, transplant coordinator, social worker, psychologist, independent living donor advocate, nephrologist, pharmacist and dietitian. If you are not from the Des Moines area we will coordinate for you to complete as much testing as possible locally before having you come to Des Moines.
During the evaluation the transplant team will discuss the donation process further and create a care plan that is specific to your case. The transplant team is responsible for assessing your overall health status including your physical, emotional and mental health. We encourage you to bring a support person who will be with you throughout the donation process. Overall, it is the responsibility of the transplant team to ensure that donating your kidney is right for you.
After your evaluation, the living donor coordinator will present the information to the Listing Committee. You will either be approved, denied or be provisionally approved pending further tests.
- If you are approved for donation the living donor coordinator will notify you. From there a surgery date can be picked.
- If it is determined you are not a good candidate, 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.
You have the right to change your mind at any time! If you decide not to move forward with a kidney donation, the recipient will not be notified of the reason. This is kept confidential.
Primary Care Provider
We would like you to have a primary care provider (PCP) prior to donation and can help facilitate the process if you do not have one. After donating, you will have one kidney for the rest of your life and will need to have regular followup care to ensure that your remaining kidney is in good health. Untreated hypertension and untreated diabetes are the most common causes of decreases in kidney function. You should have regular checkups to ensure that your blood pressure and blood sugar are well controlled. Having a good relationship with your PCP is very important in regard to donation.
Independent Donor Advocate
You will meet with a donor advocate prior to donating your kidney. The donor advocate is separate from the transplant department. We use them to make sure that you feel you have your own "spokesperson" in regard to your healthcare and decisions. The donor advocate is concerned with your well-being and will make recommendations to the transplant team whether they feel it is appropriate for you to donate your kidney.
During the procedure
The donor surgery is performed laparoscopically and takes 3-4 hours to complete. After surgery you will be given pain medication to help with any discomfort and will be spend 2-3 days in the hospital.
After the procedure
After you are discharged from the hospital you will return to the Iowa Methodist Transplant Center for follow-up care at two weeks and six weeks after surgery. We will also follow-up with phone calls and labs at six months, one year and two years post-donation.
Additional Donation Resources