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. Learn how to find a living donor when you need an organ transplant. 

Are you Eligible to be a Living Donor?

This questionnaire is for friends, family and others who are considering being a living donor.

Take our living donor questionnaire

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

Read our Tips for Finding an Organ Donor

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.

Yes. UChicago Medicine now offers virtual kidney transplant education sessions with our transplant outreach specialists. You'll have the opportunity to ask questions, and you can also start the kidney transplant process by completing an intake questionnaire.

Information for Kidney 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 that you’re able to continue with your daily activities after recovery.

Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic Kidney Donor Nephrectomy at UChicago Medicine

UChicago Medicine is one of a few hospitals in the country to offer a minimally invasive surgery option for kidney donors. Doctors will perform a nephrectomy, which is surgery to remove a kidney. The least invasive technique currently available involves making a single, small incision inside the belly button, thereby concealing the small scar afterward. Laparoscopic nephrectomy, also known as single-port donor nephrectomy, usually allows donors to leave the hospital in a day or two. Donors recover faster and typically can return to work and regular activities (except very strenuous exercise) within a matter of weeks.

[MUSIC PLAYING] About a decade ago, our team refined and developed a technique for really the least invasive approach towards kidney donation. We call it single-port donor nephrectomy, and take advantage of really the first scar that any of us are born with, which is our belly button. We make a small incision, hiding it in the belly button, and put a special instrument through which we insert the camera and the instruments needed to do the operation.

We spend that time for the next period of hour or two separating the kidney from the patient, carefully and meticulously dissecting the blood vessels and the kidney. And at the final step, divide those blood vessels and put the kidney into a special sterilized bag, and stretch out the belly button just large enough to bring the kidney out for the recipient.

At the end of the operation, we close up the belly button. Everyone ends up with an innie. And the incision is not much bigger than your original belly button. We put a little piece of gauze and a Band-Aid over the incision.

It's actually not a full Band-Aid. We cut the Band-Aid in half. And patients go to recovery and wake up and can look down at their tummy and see half a Band-Aid over their belly button, and know that they've not only saved someone's life by donating their kidney, being able to go home with minimal pain and back to full function, and doing these wonderful acts of kidney donation.


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 an overview of living kidney donation and an introduction to the donation evaluation process, watch our Living Donor Kidney Transplant Education Video. If you have any questions, please contact our living donor coordinator or another member of the transplant team. They will answer your questions when you come in for an evaluation appointment.

Watch our Living Donor Transplant Education Session.

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

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.

What you should know about living kidney donation

Our kidney transplant surgeon answers FAQs about living kidney donation.

Read the full article

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To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


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Living Donor Kidney Transplant