A living kidney donor is when you volunteer to give one of your healthy kidneys to someone who needs a transplant (the recipient). This could be a friend or family member, or someone you do not know. This is always the better type of transplant for people with kidney disease.
Directed kidney donation
If you would like to donate a kidney to a family member or friend, this is known as a directed kidney donation.
If you would like to anonymously donate one of your kidneys to someone you do not already know, you will be a non-directed altruistic kidney donor.
The UK Living Kidney Sharing Schemes
Ideally the family member or friend you would like to donate a kidney to should be compatible with you in terms of blood group and tissue type. If they are not this is known as an ‘incompatible’ or ‘mismatched’ transplant. If you would still like to donate you could be paired with one or more incompatible donors and recipients in the same situation so that each donor can donate their kidney to the other donor’s recipient. Each recipient benefits from a compatible transplant that he or she would not otherwise have had.
Where two couples are involved this is known as a ‘paired’ donation and where more than two pairs are involved, this is known as a ‘pooled’ donation.
All the donor operations are usually scheduled at the same time on the same day but, in exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to stagger the operations for practical reasons. In this situation, your transplant team will discuss the plans with you so that you are clear about how the swap will work and any additional risks that there may be for you. None of the donors know the person who receives their kidney and recipients will not know the person who donates their kidney.
Am I suitable to donate?
You will have a number of tests to check that you are fit and healthy enough to donate. A living donor coordinator will be assigned to you, who will guide you through the whole process. You will be asked to have a psychological assessment as donating a kidney can be an emotional process.
It is important to remember if you do volunteer to donate a kidney and pass all the tests, you can change your mind at any time in the process.
The transplant process
For the donor the process is the same as for an ordinary transplant but the recipient may need to have different treatments or stronger medications to reduce the risk of transplant rejection.
You will normally be out of bed the day after surgery and able to leave hospital within three to four days. Returning to normal activities (including work) takes up to six weeks and heavy physical labour should be avoided for three months.
Before you leave hospital you should be given the following:
- advice on wound care, and extra dressings to take home if needed
- prescribed pain relief medication, and instructions for safe use
- a medical certificate to cover the period of your stay in hospital
- a four week follow-up appointment in the surgical outpatients department
- a copy of your hospital discharge letter – another copy is sent to your GP.
For more information, download our 'Information for kidney donors when leaving the hospital' (PDF 112Kb) patient information leaflet.
Reimbursement of expenses
To become a living kidney donor you will need to attend hospital for several appointments and investigations. If you are found to be a suitable donor, you will also need a period of time after the operation to recover. It is possible to submit a claim for reimbursement of loss of earnings, travel costs and other relevant expenses that you may have incurred.
Download our information leaflet 'Reimbursement of expenses for living kidney donors' (PDF 149Kb).
Contact the living donor coordinators
If you would like to find out more about becoming a living donor, speak to our lead nurse for living donation.
- Tel: 020 7188 3777, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.
NHS Blood and Transplant
Find out more about living donation on the NHS Blood and Transplant website and watch a series of short films explaining living donation through the eyes of living donors, transplant recipients and healthcare professionals.
Soraya Kadri, kidney recipient
I am so grateful to my donor and also to my friend. Because of their kindness, two lives have been changed.