Many kidney failure patients wait years for a kidney transplant because there are not enough donor kidneys are available, but living kidney donation offers an alternative solution. Rather than waiting to match with a donor kidney on the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant wait list, you may be able to find a living donor who agrees to donate one of their two healthy kidneys to you. Kidneys from living donors generally last longer and work better than kidneys from deceased donors. At the University of Chicago Medicine, many of the kidneys donated to our patients come from living donors.

Frequently Asked Questions about Living Kidney Donation

A potential living kidney donor needs to meet the following requirements:

  • Over the age of 18
  • No significant medical illnesses
  • Willing to donate a kidney of their own free will
No. Kidney donors may choose to donate to a family member, friend, colleague or stranger.
Not necessarily. If you don’t have a compatible blood type, you may be able to participate in a paired kidney exchange. That’s when patients with incompatible kidney donors ‘swap’ their donors so that they each get kidneys with matching blood types. UChicago Medicine works with the National Kidney Registry, an organization that helps link donors and patients across the United States for potential kidney swaps.

Information for Donors

As a kidney donor, you’ll be evaluated by an expert team of kidney specialists to make sure you’re healthy enough to undergo the operation involved in donating a kidney and to continue with your daily activities after recovery. Today, most donors have a kidney removed through a minimally invasive procedure called a laparoscopic nephrectomy; this involves making a few small incisions using instruments and a camera to remove a kidney.

We encourage you to contact us to learn more about living donation, even if you’re uncertain as to whether it’s right for you.

For more information, contact our living donor intake coordinator at 773-702-0620 or living.donor@uchospitals.edu.

Medical costs related to donating your kidney are covered by the recipient’s insurance. However, check with your transplant coordinator to make sure you understand what is and is not covered.
Kidney donors usually spend one to two days in the hospital after surgery, and most patients are able to return to work roughly two weeks after surgery. Donating a kidney does not require you to take life-long medication, nor will it restrict your activity or diet later. The expected life span for living kidney donors is the same as for people who do not donate a kidney.

Thinking of donating your kidney to someone in need? UChicago Medicine welcomes non-directed donors – individuals who wish to donate a kidney to a stranger who needs a transplant. We evaluate these donors with the same thorough criteria as directed donors to ensure you’re physically and psychologically able to donate. You may wish to donate to an individual on our kidney transplant waitlist, or have our living donor intake coordinator register you with the National Kidney Registry to enable a chain transplant in which multiple patients receive transplants.

Dr. Yolanda Becker with a kidney transplant patient

What you should know about living kidney donation

To learn more about living kidney donation, we talked with Yolanda Becker, MD, director of the University of Chicago Medicine Kidney and Pancreas Program.

Read the full article

Rich Matula and his living kidney donor and friend, Mike Blake, tell their story

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