Living Donor Kidney Transplant
Each year, about one-third of the kidney transplant surgeries nationwide use a kidney given by a generous living donor. At University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), about one third of our kidney transplants are living donor transplants.
Because living donor kidney transplant is so vital to keeping patients alive, we work to find new ways to make the surgery available to more people. We have even developed new surgeries such as single-incision laparoscopic kidney donation surgery, so the procedure is easier and has a shorter recovery.
Learn more about living donor kidney surgery.
In addition to making more kidney transplants available, living donor transplants offer these advantages to patients:
- Better outcomes: Kidneys from a living donor have significantly better long-term survival than kidneys from a deceased donor.
- Shorter wait times: A kidney from a living donor can dramatically reduce your wait time. Because of demand, the waiting time for a deceased kidney donation may be 2 to 5 years. Learn more about end-stage kidney disease and kidney transplant.
- More donor options: Kidney donations from unrelated living donors (such as a spouse or a friend) have been found to be as successful as those from close relatives.
- Expedited surgeries: UMMC can expedite the process for kidney donor pairs whose procedures have been delayed at other hospitals. This might include patients with complicated testing needs or with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) who want to have their PKD surgery simultaneously during their transplant surgery. Learn more about living donor kidney surgery.
Many people are eligible to donate a kidney. Living kidney donors are a vital part of the kidney transplant process.
Living kidney donors should meet these criteria:
- Be between the ages of 18 and early 70s
- Can include parents, children, siblings, other relatives and friends
- Have a genuine interest in donating
- Have a compatible blood type with the recipient, although paired kidney exchange is another option
- Be in good general health
Typically, you cannot be a donor if you have:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Sickle cell disease
- HIV or hepatitis
These diseases do not always mean you cannot donate a kidney, however. We consider every donor on an individual basis.
If you are considering donating a kidney to a loved one or as an act of generosity – known as a non-directed donation – our experienced team can guide you through the process. It is important that you fully understand how donating a kidney will affect you and your family.
For kidney recipients, talking to someone about donating a kidney can be intimidating and very humbling. The United Network for Organ Sharing provides some guidance to help foster that conversation and educate the potential donor.
Learn how to discuss living donation with family and friends.
Our specialized living kidney donation team works with donors and recipients.
Separate surgeons, nurse coordinators and social workers see donors and recipients to ensure comfort and confidentiality. The donor team advocates for the best interests of each donor.
Our team includes:
- Donor surgeon: A donor surgeon completes a physical evaluation of each donor to ensure medical suitability. The surgeon also thoroughly explains the medical risks of the procedure and can answer questions and address concerns. After the operation, the donor surgeon meets with the donor to check on the recovery.
- Nurse coordinator: An assigned nurse coordinator arranges all testing and evaluations for donors, communicates results, and provides education and support throughout the donation experience. The donor nurse coordinator is available to answer questions about testing, preparation for surgery, inpatient hospitalization and the donor's needs after surgery. Meet the transplant nurse coordinators.
- Clinical social worker: A clinical social worker is available to answer questions for living donors and individuals who are considering donation. The social worker also works with the donor to complete the psychosocial assessment that is required as part of the evaluation.
- Financial coordinator: The recipient's insurance covers all costs for the donor's workup and surgery. The financial coordinator meets with donors to coordinate all billing and provide correct billing information.
Sometimes a living donor is healthy and ready to donate a kidney, but the donor’s blood type is incompatible with the blood type of the intended recipient. UMMC’s paired kidney exchange (PKE) program can help.
Not all centers are able to offer paired kidney exchange. This is because the procedure can be complex and requires the center to have significant transplant capabilities.
At UMMC, we participate in several paired kidney exchange programs regionally and nationally, including the National Kidney Registry.
Here’s how it works:
- Paired kidney exchange allows donors to “swap” with other donors’ recipients.
- Through a carefully orchestrated process, one person gives a kidney to an unknown recipient. That recipient’s willing donor, in exchange, gives a kidney to a different recipient with whom they are compatible.
- PKE allows more kidney transplant recipients to receive as close to an ideal match as possible.
- Kidney donors have the opportunity to help more than one recipient receive a transplant with the gift of a single kidney.
Madhu Thibaudeau, a kidney transplant recipient, received her organ as part of a 12-way chain. See her story on the Life in a Medical Center Blog.
At UMMC, we frequently complete successful living donor kidney transplants for children. We work closely with our colleagues in the Pediatric Nephrology department at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on our shared campus.
Our pediatric kidney transplant program meets the unique needs of our young patients:
- Dedicated pediatric team: A dedicated nephrologist (kidney specialist) and nurse coordinator work with our pediatric kidney transplant patients and their families. The children we care for have a team of professionals, including a social worker, dietitian and anesthesiologist, who understand their needs.
- Experienced surgeon: We have a skilled, experienced surgeon who specializes in pediatric transplants. Children and their families meet with the surgeon before transplant.
- Post-operative care: After transplant, our program cares for children in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Children’s Hospital.
- Parent-child donation: Parents who donate a kidney to their child can visit the child in the PICU. We are located on the same hospital campus.
Learn more about pediatric transplant at UMMC.
Learn more about living donor kidney surgery.
For additional information about our kidney transplant program or to speak to someone about becoming a living kidney donor, please call 1-410-328-5408 or 1-800-492-5538.
If you are interested in becoming a living kidney donor, please click below to download our questionnaire.
For referring physicians: To refer a patient or get more information, please call 1-800-373-4111. A physician service representative from Consultation and Referral Services will direct your call to the appropriate physician or department.
For more details, please visit our section for referring physicians.