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Living Kidney Donor Program: Overview

Waiting for kidney donor can be a long, uncertain battle for those who have kidney disease and/or kidney failure and need a life-saving kidney transplant.  Through the living kidney donor program at Rush, relatives, loved ones, friends and even individuals who wish to remain anonymous can help these individuals by becoming a living donor — a person who donates one of their kidneys when they are still alive.

You have two kidneys, but you can live with just one. That is what makes it possible for you to be a living organ donor by donating a kidney to a loved one or to someone you do not know through altruistic donation or paired donation.

Fill out a living donor questionnaire to determine if you are elligible to be a living kidney donor.

Benefits of living donor transplants for kidney transplant recipients

  • There is a greater chance of long-term success with living organ donors, compared to a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • Kidneys from living donors usually begin working immediately.
  • Transplant recipients will likely feel dramatically better shortly after the transplant.
  • The recipient can potentially avoid having to go on dialysis.
  • There is a reduced risk of rejection with a living donor kidney compared to a deceased donor kidney.

Paired exchange

Sometimes people who wish to donate a kidney to someone they know are not a biological match. If you are not a match for your intended recipient but you are medically able to donate, you may be able to participate in a paired exchange. 

Through the exchange, the person you initially wished to donate to would receive a kidney from another living donor (who was also not a match with his or her intended recipient). Your kidney would then go to that donor’s recipient. Talk to your transplant coordinator for more information about a paired exchange.

Rush is one of the only transplant centers in the Chicago area that participates in the paired exchange program.

Living donor evaluation process

To ensure that it is safe to proceed with donation, anyone interested in becoming a living kidney donor undergoes a thorough physical and psychosocial evaluation.

Living donor transplant procedure

Transplant surgeons at Rush specialize in using a minimally invasive approach for transplant donation. They use small incisions, which allows for a faster recovery. Donors are typically able to go back at work within weeks after surgery.

Learn more about what you can expect before, during and after the transplant procedure.

Living with one kidney

  • Kidney function: All donors experience a permanent decrease in kidney function after surgery. However, your long-term risk of developing kidney failure is similar to that of other healthy individuals with two kidneys.
  • Back to life: Once you have recovered from the surgery, which typically takes 2 to 3 weeks, you will be able to resume normal activity without any additional restrictions or medications.
  • Follow-up: After surgery, you will have follow-up appointments with the transplant team one to two weeks after surgery. You will then have the following follow-up schedule:
    • Six months after surgery
    • One year after surgery
    • Two years after surgery

We recommend that you see your primary care physician at least once a year for check-ups.

Risks of living kidney donation

Although the living donor program at Rush has a high success rate, there can be complications as with any procedure. While they are rare, some of the risks include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Blood clots
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Hernia
  • Nerve damage

Despite the risks and sacrifices associated with living kidney donation, most donors look back positively on their decision and are grateful for the opportunity to save a life.

Contact us

For more information, please contact our living donor transplant coordinator at (312) 947-GIFT (4438).