Kidney Donations

Today, living donors do not have to be related, so spouses, friends and other emotionally-related individuals can give the gift of life. Kidneys from live donors have a long-term survival that is roughly two to three times longer than the long-term survival of a deceased-donor transplant. The St. Joseph Hospital Kidney Transplant Center will diligently evaluate all appropriate options for living donation.

Who can be a living donor

Living donors are healthy blood-related or emotionally-related individuals who are, in most cases, blood-type compatible with the recipient. Many transplant candidates may have willing living donors and not know even know it. In general, the donor should meet the following criteria:

  • Must have good health and good kidney function
  • Be personally motivated to donate a kidney
  • Be blood-type compatible, which includes:
    • Being the same blood type as the intended recipient
    • Being blood type O (universal donor)
    • Blood sub type A2, which can be transplanted into blood type A and many O or B recipients
    • In appropriate cases blood type incompatible transplant may be an option
  • If a donor meets the above criteria, he or she will undergo a thorough evaluation process, which includes a medical history, physical examination and various tests to ensure they can safely donate a kidney.

To schedule an initial donor evaluation, please call 714-771-8033.

Minimally invasive surgery (Donor Nephrectomy)

The operation to remove a kidney from a living donor has undergone many improvements over the past several years, so there is less hospital time and a faster recovery. At the St. Joseph Hospital Kidney Transplant Center, surgeons perform a minimally invasive open nephrectomy, which involves the removal of the kidney through an incision that is less than half the size of a traditional incision. We believe this is a very safe way to remove the kidney, with excellent control over the large blood vessels that provide the kidney with circulation. This type of nephrectomy results in faster recovery and less hospital time than the standard nephrectomy.

Costs associated with living kidney donation

The medical costs associated with being a living donor are generally covered by the recipient's insurance. However, insurance coverage does vary. The medical expenses most often covered include diagnostic tests, surgery, the hospital stay and any follow-up with the kidney specialist.

Payment for kidney donation is illegal. However, support related to expenses incurred due to donation may be appropriate. The St. Joseph Hospital Kidney Transplant Center cannot accept donors who have been promised payment for donation, or who have been solicited by any means including advertising or donor/recipient matching services.

Most of the kidney transplants in the US come from deceased kidney donors. Deceased donors are individuals who die from accidents or other causes, and their next of kin consent to organ donation. The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney in Southern California can range from five to twelve years, depending on blood type.

Deceased donor waiting lists

The federal government, through the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, oversees transplantation, including distribution of deceased donor organs. The HHS Department contracts with an organization called the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which administers the waiting list for deceased donor organs. UNOS is overseen by transplant experts including transplant surgeons and representatives from organ-procurement agencies, patients and the donors' families. By consensus, the organs are allocated based on the principles of equal access and social utility.

About the surgery

Surgeons place the donated kidney in the pelvis through an incision, attaching the new organ to the recipient's blood vessels and bladder. Unlike living donation where the kidney comes directly from the donor to the recipient, kidneys from deceased donors are often injured by the death and preservation processes, so a delay in kidney function may occur. Occasionally, dialysis is continued until the deceased donor kidney begins to function. When dialysis is needed, deceased donor kidneys may take up to two weeks to begin functioning. With living donation, delay in kidney function is uncommon and function may be restored almost immediately, like turning a switch from off to on.