Penn Transplant Institute

Living Kidney Donor Program

Kidneys from a living donor have a better chance of long-term survival than those from a deceased donor. The Penn Transplant Institute has one of the largest and most experienced living donor kidney transplant programs in the region.

Penn's first live kidney transplant was performed in 1966. Nearly 50 years later, the recipient still has his original transplanted kidney with excellent kidney function and is one of the longest surviving kidney transplant recipients in the world. Some of the important benefits of living donation are:

  • Shortens or removes the waiting time for a transplant.
  • Allows the procedure to be scheduled at a time convenient for both recipient and donor.
  • Shortens the time the kidney is outside the body, increasing the quality of the organ.
  • Allows for preemptive transplant, or transplant before dialysis. Preemptive transplant gives the best chance for success and survival of both the kidney and the patient. The survival and success rates decrease the longer a patient stays on dialysis.

Other Living Donor Options

Paired Kidney Exchange

Patients without a compatible relative or friend no longer need to wait for a deceased donor to become available. Paired kidney exchange is an option for kidney recipient and donor pairs who are not blood and/or tissue-type compatible. With paired kidney exchange, kidneys are exchanged between two incompatible pairs to make two compatible living donor transplants. While it may not be possible to find a compatible donor-recipient pair for everyone, enrollment in this process can expand the opportunity to receive a transplant or donate a kidney.

Altruistic Donation

It is also possible for a healthy individual to donate anonymously to the transplant waiting list (non-directed altruistic donation) or to a specific person on the transplant waiting list (directed donation). Altruistic donation has the potential to begin a series of paired exchange transplants and help multiple patients

Living Donor Kidney Transplant Evaluation

In order to qualify as a living donor, an individual must be:

  • Physically fit.
  • In good general health.
  • Free from substantial high blood pressure.
  • Free from diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease.
  • Between 21 and 60 years old. Potential donors who are 61 and older are considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Factors such as gender and ethnicity are not considered in determining a successful match.

Anyone interested in beginning the evaluation process to be a living kidney donor, please complete the Kidney Living Donor Referral Form and return it to the living donor kidney team or contact the Penn Living Donor Transplant Team by calling 800-789-PENN (7366).

Living Kidney Donor Surgery

Depending on the donor's anatomy, Penn transplant surgeons remove the kidney either through open surgery (nephrectomy) or laparoscopic surgery (laparoscopic nephrectomy).

The donor's evaluation and hospitalization costs are covered completely by the recipient's Medicare and/or insurance coverage. The donor is not responsible for any medical expenses. However, donors are not reimbursed for lost income, transportation costs or personal expenses. Some employers provide assistance for employees who choose to be living organ donors and financial support may also be available through the National Living Donor Assistance Center.

After Living Donor Kidney Surgery

After surgery, kidney donors spend several hours in the recovery room. Once awake and stable, they return to their hospital room and family and friends may visit there. Most donors are in the hospital for two to three days following surgery. A return visit usually occurs three to four weeks after the surgery. In most cases, donor patients experience some discomfort in the incision area and receive pain medication for the first few days following surgery.

Donor Risks

Kidney donors may experience a slight rise in blood pressure and the development of a small amount of excess protein in the urine following surgery. However, studies have shown that there is no long-term effect on the health of the donor or the remaining kidney. Donors are at no greater risk of developing kidney failure after donating than anyone in the general population. In fact, studies have also shown that donors typically live longer than the average population because they are selected on the basis of good health and are thoroughly screened prior to donation.

Anyone interested in beginning the evaluation process to be a living kidney donor, please complete the Kidney Living Donor Referral Form and return it to the living donor kidney team or contact the Penn Living Donor Transplant Team by calling 215-662-6200.