Kidney Transplant FAQ

How does the waiting list work if I can’t find a match on my own?

A person’s spot on the waiting list depends on the patient’s medical urgency, blood, tissue and size match with the donor, time on the waiting list and proximity to the donor. Under certain circumstances, special allowances are made for children. For example, children under age 11 who need kidneys are automatically assigned additional points. Factors such as a patient’s income, celebrity status, and race or ethnic background play no role in determining allocation of organs.

Contrary to popular belief, waiting on the list for a transplant is not like taking a number at the deli counter and waiting for your turn to order. In some respects, even the word “list” is misleading; the list is really a giant pool of patients. There is no ranking or patient order until there is a donor, because each donor’s blood type, size and genetic characteristics are different. Therefore, when a donor is entered into the national computer system, the patients that match that donor, and therefore the “list,” is different each time.

The other major guiding principal in organ allocation is: local patients first. The country is divided into 11 geographic regions, each served by a federally-designated organ procurement organization (OPO), which is responsible for coordinating all organ donations. With the exception of perfectly matched kidneys and the most urgent liver patients, first priority goes to patients at transplant hospitals located in the region served by the OPO. Next in priority are patients in areas served by nearby OPOs; and finally, only if no patients in these communities can use the organ, it is offered to patients elsewhere in the U.S.

How long will the transplant surgery take?

The surgery generally takes up to 2-3 hours.

What happens if my body rejects the kidney?

There are different levels of rejection preceding transplant. After kidney transplantation, your body will reject the kidney to some extent because your body sees the new organ as a foreign object that it isn’t used to. It will take some time for the body to fully accept the new kidney. A recipient can function quite well if there is a small amount of rejection in the kidney. However, if the new liver is failing fatally, then a second or even third transplant may occur. Anti rejection medication is also distributed to help the new kidney function.

What are my chances of surviving a kidney transplant?

Depending on how healthy the recipient is and their age, there is a 90 to 95% success rate after kidney transplant. Kidney transplants are also the most successful organ transplant around the world.

What are the risks in kidney transplant surgery?

Risks may include kidney rejection, infection, bleeding, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, damage to other organs, reaction to the anesthesia (which may include problems breathing), and failure of the donor kidney.

KLiving Donor Kidney Transplant FAQ

What is the process for determining if I am a candidate to donate?

The first step is determining whether or not you are the same blood type as the recipient. After that, there are psychological and physical tests administered that are used to determine if a donor is a good match. It is important that you are healthy and can withstand the surgery and recovery and that the specific organ you are donating is a good match for the recipient.

How do I begin the donor process?

If you are interested in being a living donor, you should contact the determined hospital to request a questionnaire. Once the questionnaire has been completed, it will be reviewed by a nurse coordinator to determine if you may proceed with initial blood testing.

Once your blood type, antigen match, and cross match are known, the living donor nurse coordinator will discuss the results and the donation process with you and answer any questions so that you can make an informed decision about proceeding with donation. This conversation is strictly confidential and is not shared with the recipient. If the donor decides to continue with donation, they must then complete a comprehensive evaluation.

Can you donate to someone who is not related to you?

Yes you can, though you will still need to go through the evaluation process. It is a good idea to think about why you want to donate and the effects it may have on your relationship post-transplant.

What are the long-term affects of being a living donor?

All patients experience some pain and discomfort after a surgical procedure, and as with any major operation, there are risks involved. It is possible for kidney donors to develop infections or bleeding, and when a portion of the liver or pancreas is donated, the liver or spleen could be injured.

You will have a scar from the donor operation- the size and location of the scar will depend on the type of operation you have.

Some donors have reported long-term problems with pain, nerve damage, hernia, or intestinal obstruction. There are not currently any national statistics on the frequency of these problems.

In addition, people with one kidney may be at a greater risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Proteinuria
  • Reduced kidney function

Does insurance cover living donation?

It is the recipient’s insurance policy that covers the transplant. Any lost wages or medical treatment post transplant are the responsibility of the donor.

What is the donor surgery like?

You will be admitted in the hospital the morning of surgery and you will go through a physical examination, including blood work, chest X-ray, and EKG. If all goes well, you will be okay for surgery, but there are times that the patient has been sent home. If you pass the physical exam, the doctor will administer you IV fluids and answer your remaining questions. You will then be escorted to surgery and the anesthesiologist will sedate you. Once you are fully asleep, you will be given a breathing tube to help you breathe during surgery and a catheter will be placed into your bladder. The surgery then begins.

Will giving a kidney affect my lifestyle?

A person can lead an active, normal life with only one kidney. Studies have shown that one kidney is sufficient to keep the body healthy. After recovering from surgery, a donor can work, drive, exercise and participate in sports, though contact sports are not recommended. A donor can continue in all types of occupations, including military duty. Also, being a donor does not impact a person’s ability to have a child. Doctor’s do recommend you watch your weight and blood pressure to stay healthy.

What happens if I decide to donate, but change my mind halfway through the evaluation process?

A donor is never forced to donate if they don’t want to or if they change their mind. In most cases, the assigned doctor will carry the burden of stopping the process and informing the recipient. For example, they might tell the recipient that the donor is not a good match.