Living Kidney Donor
You are born with two kidneys, but you only need one to lead a healthy life. Donating a kidney to someone whose health is failing is a selfless act. It is also a major life decision. If you choose to donate a kidney at UNC Medical Center, you will be in the hands of one of the most experienced teams in the state.
We were the first hospital in North Carolina to use laparoscopic procedures for living kidney donation surgery. Thanks to our years of experience performing this minimally invasive procedure, you benefit from smaller incisions, less pain, minimal scarring and lower infection risk. You can expect to resume daily activities in about six weeks.
Donating a Kidney at UNC Medical Center
Donating a kidney will significantly improve another person’s life. Equally important to us is that your quality of life remains unaffected and that your donation is completely voluntary.
To safeguard your health, you work with a team of experts who put your safety and well-being first. You benefit from:
- Transplant expertise: Our team has more than 50 years of experience performing kidney transplants, so you are in skilled hands.
- Donor advocates: We pair you with a living donor transplant coordinator whose priority is looking out for your best interests. This specialist is not involved with the person receiving your kidney. We make sure you are voluntarily donating for the right reasons and that the procedure will not jeopardize your health.
- Minimally invasive surgery: We are state pioneers in using laparoscopic procedures to remove the kidney, helping you return to activities faster.
- Improved pain management: We use Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) pain management protocols to reduce the need for addictive pain medicines. Long-acting local anesthesia and alternative pain relievers can effectively manage most people’s pain.
Kidney Donation Options
There are several options for donating a kidney, including:
- Directed donation: Your donated kidney goes to someone you choose, usually a relative, friend or loved one.
- Altruistic (nondirected) donation: Your donated kidney goes to someone you do not know who is on the national United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list.
- Kidney paired donation: The National Kidney Registry® matches incompatible living donors and recipients with another paired living donor and recipient. Your kidney goes to the other recipient in need, while a kidney from the other living donor goes to your loved one. We were the first medical center in the state to participate in this program, reflecting our dedication to saving as many lives as possible.
Kidney Donor Requirements
Your living donor transplant coordinator helps you navigate the process of becoming a kidney donor. We consider several factors during the evaluation process, such as:
- General health
- Blood type compatibility
- Substance abuse and mental health
You undergo medical screenings to ensure that kidney donation does not pose a health risk to you. Your doctor will run several different tests to check the function of your kidneys, heart and lungs. People who have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart, lung or kidney disease may not be able to donate.
Blood type compatibility
Thanks to our expertise using desensitization techniques, including plasmapheresis, you do not have to be the same blood type as the recipient. We were the first in the state to transplant organs into recipients whose blood type differs from their donors. This approach expands options for those in need of a kidney.
Living kidney donors must be at least 18 years old. UNC Medical Center does not have an upper age limit for donation. We have successfully transplanted kidneys from living donors who are in their 70s.
Substance abuse and mental health
You cannot donate if you have alcoholism, and you may not be able to donate if you have a past or current history of substance abuse disorder. You also need to be in good mental health.
Benefits of Kidney Donation
Transplant recipients who receive a kidney from a living donor tend to have better outcomes. There are many reasons for these improved results, including:
- Short wait for a transplant: The average wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years. A transplant recipient’s health can decline during this time, making a transplant riskier. A kidney from a living donor can be immediately transplanted.
- Better quality kidney: Comprehensive medical tests ensure the donated kidney is healthy. Because there is usually no trauma, the donated kidney is less likely to have tissue damage.
- Better transplant conditions: The donation and transplant are scheduled on the same day. The donated kidney is not coming from a location that is hours away, so there is less risk of tissue damage or deterioration.
- Reduced need for dialysis: A kidney from a living donor often starts working immediately because it is not outside of a body for long. Kidneys from deceased donors may take some time to start functioning. As a result, the recipient may need dialysis for a short period.
Kidney Donation Surgery: What to Expect
Surgery for a kidney donation usually takes three to five hours and may require a hospital stay of up to three days. We know you are anxious to get back to doing the things you love. With your doctor’s approval, you should be able to return to nonstrenuous activities within four to six weeks.
After Kidney Donation Surgery
Your health remains our priority long after you have donated a kidney. We provide follow-up care for two years. For your convenience, you may undergo follow-up testing at a local lab, your primary care doctor’s office or UNC Medical Center.
Call (984) 974-7568 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about becoming a living kidney donor. Learn more about donating a kidney by reading the Living Donor section (pages 50-70) of our Kidney Transplant Handbook.
To start the process, please complete our Living Donor online questionnaire.