Understand the various types of live kidney donations and how they may affect you or your loved one.

There are different types of living donation. The transplant team carefully reviews each option to determine the best course of action that will lead to the best possible outcome.

Related Living Donors

Related living donors are healthy blood relatives of the person in need of a kidney. They include:

  • Parents
  • Siblings (including half brothers and sisters)
  • Children over 21 years of age
  • Other blood relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, , nieces and nephews)

Non-Related Living Donors

Non-related living donors are healthy individuals not directly related to, but emotionally close to, the transplant candidate. The number of unrelated live donors has increased over the past 15 years, which has resulted in a highly diverse donor-recipient population. They include:

  • Spouses
  • In-law relatives
  • Close friends
  • Neighbors, co-workers or other acquaintances
  • Altruistic donors

Paired Kidney Exchange

Paired kidney exchange is a transplant option for kidney recipient and donor pairs who are not blood and/or tissue-type compatible. In this situation, a kidney donor is committed to donating, but the donor and recipient are in some way immunologically incompatible. Transplant cannot go forward without a high risk of rejection. With paired kidney exchange, kidneys are exchanged between two (or more) 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. Penn also actively participates in national paired kidney exchange programs.

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.


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, please fill out the Living Kidney Donor Referral form.

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