For the Recipient

Is a kidney transplant from a living donor better than one from a deceased donor?

Kidney donation from a living donor provides some major benefits including:

  • Better long-term transplant kidney survival
  • Faster access to transplantation
  • A reduced risk of rejection

Does the donor need to be a relative?

The donor does not have to be blood related. Any healthy person can choose to become a donor. Nevertheless, we do require that donors have an emotional relationship with the recipient.

What is kidney paired donation exchange?

Kidney paired donation exchange is a transplant option for kidney recipient and donor pairs who are not blood and/or tissue-type compatible. This option allows kidneys to be exchanged between two incompatible pairs to make two compatible living donor transplants.

For the Donor

Who can be a donor?

To qualify as a living donor, an individual must be in good health, free from any serious medical problems and between the ages of 21 and 60.

What are the risks involved?

Donating a kidney does not have any long-term effect on health. Donors may experience a slight rise in blood pressure and a small amount of excess protein in the urine following surgery. There is no greater risk of developing kidney failure after donating at kidney than anyone in the general population.

Are there activities that I will not be able to do in the future if I choose to donate a kidney?

In general, donating a kidney does not have any long-term effect on health. Some restrictions do apply following donor surgery, including reducing or eliminating the use of NSAIDS and avoiding any activity that may cause injury to the surgical area.

Does the evaluation process have to be completed at Penn?

The entire evaluation process is completed at Penn; however, if the prospective donor lives at a distance, arrangements can be made for some of the initial screening to be done at the donor's location.

Who makes the final decision on potential donors?

Based on the evaluation results, the Transplant team (comprised of nephrologists, nurses, social workers, dieticians and other transplant specialists) decides whether or not to proceed with a living donor kidney transplant as the best therapeutic option.

Who pays for the donor's medical expenses?

The recipient's insurance covers all of the donor's evaluation and hospitalization costs; however, it does not cover lost income, transportation costs or personal expenses. The transplant financial advisor reviews the potential donor/recipient procedures and associated costs carefully prior to the evaluation.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most donors remain in the hospital for two to three days.

What is the recovery process like?

Most kidney donors resume normal activities four to six weeks after surgery. Donors are not able to drive for three to four weeks after discharge and are not permitted to lift heavy objects. You may need assistance with daily living activities during this time.

How long will I be out of work?

Depending on the nature of the work, donors typically return to work between 10 days and two weeks.

What happens if I decide not to become a living liver donor?

At any point, for any reason, the evaluation process can be stopped. The recipient will remain active on the transplant list and is free to find another potential living donor.

For the Caregiver

Do I need to provide a special diet during the recovery period?

Donors do not have to eat a special diet after surgery so long as the recovery is progressing as expected.

Will the donor have any physical restrictions during recovery that I should I be aware of?

While light physical activity, such as walking, is encouraged following surgery, the donor is restricted from lifting heavy objects for at least a month. He or she may need assistance with daily living activities such as lifting groceries, transportation, and walking up and down stairs.

What medications need to be administered during recovery?

The donor will be prescribed pain medication to manage any discomfort following surgery.

For Referring Physicians

How long does the screening process take to evaluate a potential donor?

On average, the full work up takes one day, but it may take longer depending on whether or not additional tests need to be conducted.

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