Living kidney donation is usually the fastest and most effective way for a person with end-stage kidney disease to receive a kidney transplant. Living donation offers important benefits compared to a deceased donor kidney transplant:
The surgery is generally safe for both donor and recipient, and in some cases donation of a kidney may allow the recipient to avoid dialysis.
A health screening is needed to determine if it is safe and appropriate to begin the donor testing process. You can start the process by completing a health questionnaire.
If you decide to pursue kidney donation, a dedicated team focused on your safety, wellbeing and confidentiality will provide care for you. As part of the evaluation process, you will consult with a nephrologist, a physician who specializes in care of the kidneys, and a transplant surgeon. You will also be asked to undergo a series of medical tests and exams, and have the opportunity to get to know your team personally as you work together to decide if donation is right for you. Once you have passed all the tests and make the decision to become a donor, the kidney transplant team will prepare you for surgery.
Donors who are not a match for their intended recipients may still be able to help their family member or friend get a living donor kidney transplant. This is made possible by a process called kidney paired donation (KPD).
With KPD, non-matching donor-recipient pairs are entered into a national computer database that searches for other non-matching donor-recipient pairs and creates matches within the database. After a match is found, an exchange or “swap” of living donor kidneys is performed to allow each recipient to receive the benefits of living kidney donation.
The surgery is called laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, which is the elective removal of a kidney using minimally invasive surgery. The surgery is performed by making four small incisions (cuts) in the abdomen (belly). One incision is used to insert an optical instrument (laparoscope) to view the kidney, and then gas is used to inflate the abdomen to allow room for the surgeons to work. The kidney is removed through a small incision in the lower abdomen. The surgery takes about 3 hours.
Your surgeons will perform a laparoscopic nephrectomy if possible, based on your condition, kidney anatomy or other factors. Benefits of the laparoscopic procedure are a faster recovery and shorter hospital stay.
After your surgery starts, a second team of surgeons will begin surgery on the recipient. The evaluation process does not stop when the surgeries begin, but continues during the entire procedure. If at any point the surgical team believes you are at risk or that your kidney is not appropriate for transplantation, the surgery will be stopped.
The typical hospital stay is 1 to 2 days after surgery, with admission the day before. Follow-up visits are at 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 18 months and 2 years – or as often as needed if related to donation. After the last visit 2 years following surgery, we encourage former patients to see their primary care physician annually. Follow-up care is an important commitment to your health and wellbeing.
We are pleased to share our outcomes with you. This information is based on how the recipient (the person receiving the kidney transplant) does after surgery. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to inform each patient of national and transplant center-specific outcomes. These outcomes are updated every 6 months and can be used as a benchmark to compare outcomes of patients at Memorial Hermann-TMC with those who have surgery at other centers. To view our most recent outcomes, including living donor recipient outcomes, please visit the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
The resources below provide more information for donors and recipients considering transplantation:
Memorial Hermann Transplant Center
Living Donor Program
6411 Fannin Street, Suite J1-400
Houston, Texas 77030