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Everything to know about becoming a living kidney donor

Everything to know about becoming a living kidney donor

According to the American Kidney Fund, 92,000 Americans are currently on the national transplant waiting list for a kidney transplant. Their average wait? Between three and five years. That’s why a living kidney donor can make such a big impact.

Most kidney donations come from deceased donors. When a person is added to the waiting list for a kidney transplant, that’s a waiting list for kidneys from those who have passed away.

Because most people are born with two healthy kidneys, living kidney donation is possible. A person can donate a kidney and live safely with the remaining kidney.

Wondering who can donate and how the process works? The East Jefferson General Hospital team provides a variety of transplant services, including living donor kidney and liver transplants, and shares some insight below.

How living organ donation works

According to the National Kidney Foundation, around 25,000 kidney transplants were performed in 2022. Consider that number in relation to the estimated 786,000 Americans living with kidney failure, including the more than 90,000 on the kidney transplant waiting list.

If you know someone who needs a kidney transplant and you’re interested in becoming a kidney donor, the process starts at the transplant center where the person signed up. You’ll need to be evaluated to make sure you are healthy enough to donate and to determine whether you are a match for that person.

Even if you aren’t a match, there are other types of living kidney donations you can consider. One type of living kidney donation is known as a paired kidney exchange and sometimes called a kidney swap. `

In this type of donation, two kidney donor-transplant recipient pairs are matched together. Each donor wasn’t a match for his or her intended recipient but matched with someone else on the waiting list, and the two sets are paired together to result in two live donor transplants.

You can also donate a kidney to someone you don’t know in a process known as living non-directed donation. That kidney may benefit someone on the waiting list in your community or to someone elsewhere in the country.

Who is eligible to become a living kidney donor

There are three basic requirements for becoming a kidney donor: You need to be 18 or older, have two healthy kidneys and be healthy enough to donate. To determine whether you’re healthy enough, you’ll undergo a thorough medical evaluation that includes blood and urine tests, a blood pressure check, imaging tests, and heart and lung function tests.

Depending on your age, you may undergo routine cancer screenings such as mammograms or colonoscopies during this evaluation. To ensure you’re mentally and emotionally healthy and prepared to undergo kidney donation surgery, you’ll also talk with a social worker as part of the evaluation process.

If you’re eligible to donate and move forward as a living kidney donor for someone you know, the next step is to determine whether you’re a match for your intended recipient based on blood type and antibodies.

When you donate, your donation can be truly lifesaving. Those who receive living kidney donations rather than kidneys from a deceased donor typically live longer, healthier lives as a result.

In most cases, becoming a kidney donor will not affect your own health. Although you lose up to 35% of your kidney function when donating a kidney, the risk of kidney failure is no higher for a kidney donor than it is for others of the same age, sex or race.

While there are risks associated with any type of surgery, including kidney donation, the effects of the surgery are usually minimal and brief. You can live a long life after donating to save someone else’s life.

If you or a loved one is in need of an organ transplant, the Tulane Transplant Institute at East Jefferson General Hospital is here to help.