Live Donor Kidney Transplant

Transplant Options

There are currently only enough organs from deceased donors available for about 24% of the almost 90,000 people on the national kidney transplant waiting list. Although there are not enough kidneys to meet the demand, at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, you have other options, such as living donor kidney transplantation (LDKT).

LDKT may offer the possibility of a kidney to an additional 40 to 50 percent of patients on the waiting list.

The specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you understand the requirements for live donor kidney transplantation.

Benefits of Live Donor Kidney Donation

Living donor kidney transplantation is an elective procedure performed when the recipient is at his or her healthiest point. This way, he or she avoids the continued physical deterioration that happens while waiting for a suitable kidney replacement. If the transplant occurs before the start of dialysis, the outcomes are even better.

By avoiding the use of a deceased donor kidney, LDKT helps to shorten the waiting list and allows another patient on that list to benefit from transplantation. The recipient benefits by getting a transplant faster compared to being on the waiting list.

You can become a living kidney donor because you only need one kidney to lead a perfectly healthy life.

Live Kidney Donor Requirements & Evaluation

The specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you understand the requirements for live donor kidney transplantation.

To become a live donor, you must:

  • Be over age 18
  • Be willing to commit to the pre-donation evaluation process, surgery and the burden of recovery
  • Be in good health and psychological condition
  • Have a compatible blood type
  • Have normal kidney function

In certain situations, you must meet additional requirements to become a live donor. You may have to do this if you:

  • Are an incompatible cross-match (you are not compatible based on antibodies)
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35
  • Have high blood pressure that is controlled on one blood pressure medication
  • Have a history of a kidney stone
  • Have an incompatible blood type

You cannot be a live donor if you:

  • Are under age 18
  • Have heart disease, diabetes, uncontrolled blood pressure or cancer
  • Have chronic kidney problems
  • Have any conditions that may jeopardize your health by kidney donation (e.g., pregnancy, being underweight, obesity (BMI >35 etc.)
Benefits of Kidney Transplants

The specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you understand the benefits and risks of live donor kidney transplantation. It is important that you are aware of both the benefits and risks of this procedure.

Giving the Gift of Life

By becoming a live donor, you shorten the time a recipient spends on the kidney transplant waiting list. You also increase the likelihood of successful transplantation because survival rates are higher when the kidney transplant comes from a live donor. Additionally, you help another wait-listed patient because your donation vacates the recipient’s spot on the list for the next person when a deceased donor’s kidney becomes available.

Minimally-Invasive Procedure

We perform laparoscopic surgery for kidney donors. This means we make several small incisions to insert a camera and surgical tools to remove the kidney, instead of traditional large incisions. This reduces discomfort, speeds up the recovery process and leaves smaller scars than conventional open surgery. Most kidney donors go home from the hospital in a few days and can return to their normal daily activities within weeks.

No Life Expectancy Changes

Donating a kidney does not affect a person’s life expectancy. On the contrary, studies show that people who donate a kidney outlive the average population. Twenty years after donating, 85 percent of kidney donors were still alive, while the expected survival rate was 66 percent. This may be because only healthy people are approved to become donors, or perhaps donors take additional health precautions after donating a kidney.

Low Financial Burden

The entire donation process is typically paid for by the recipient’s insurance company. This includes all pre-transplant evaluations, surgery, in-hospital recovery and follow-up care. The recipient’s insurance company may not cover some items, such as pain medications, so our financial coordinator helps you find out how to pay for them. Your other costs may include time spent missing work, lodging and transportation. Most potential donors can help offset some of the out-of-pocket expenses by applying for financial assistance through the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC).

Risks of Kidney Transplants

Possible Complications

Kidney donation is a low-risk procedure, but this does not mean that it is risk-free. While complications happen less than 5 percent of the time, as with any surgical procedure, there is a small possibility of infection, anesthesia complications, bleeding, blood clots, hernias or post-operative pneumonia. These complications are usually short-term, and our transplant experts can manage them. Our team teaches you how to look for symptoms of complications during your recovery.

Possible Death

Complications may result in a donor’s death. However, this is extremely rare. The National Kidney Registry reports that in the United States, only three deaths occur out of 10,000 live donor transplants (0.03 percent mortality rate).

Lifestyle Changes

In preparation for kidney donation, you may need to make some modifications to your lifestyle. These changes include avoiding recreational drugs and tobacco. You may consume alcohol in moderation up to six weeks before surgery.


Pain is normal after surgery. You should be able to walk the day of surgery and can go home after three days. Kidney donors may return to work two to four weeks after the surgery and gradually resume normal activities.

Paired Kidney Exchange

If your relative or loved one cannot donate a kidney directly to you due to an incompatible crossmatch or blood type, specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you pursue a paired kidney exchange with another pair of people in the same situation. An exchange between two incompatible pairs is possible when the donor of each pair is compatible with the recipient of the other pair, and all parties agree to participate in the exchange.

Paired exchange programs can help when the donor and recipient have incompatible blood types or when the recipient has made antibodies to the donor’s HLA antigens (tissue type). We offer a desensitization program to patients with high levels of antibodies to HLA antigens that are reducing their ability to find a compatible kidney. We use various strategies to reduce the number of antibodies and increase your chances of finding a compatible kidney.

At Lahey, we participate in:

Patient Story: In Sickness & in Health

Steve Sennott suffered from a genetic kidney disease, spending weeks at a time in the hospital. Knowing that Steve could face dialysis for the rest of his life, his wife Jackie suggested a kidney transplant and immediately volunteered to be his donor. Learn how the power of transplant at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center gave Steve and Jackie a fresh perspective on life and a new appreciation of the vows “in sickness and in health.”

Steve's Story

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