Normally everyone has two kidneys, although a person can live a healthy life with one. Living donation occurs when a person freely decides to donate one of their kidneys to someone in need of a transplant. This compassionate gesture offers the individual waiting for a transplant an alternative to dialysis or a deceased donor transplant.
Donating a kidney is the most frequent type of living organ donation. A living kidney transplant is the most successful of all transplant procedures. Other organs which can be donated via living donation are part of the liver, lung, small bowel and pancreas.
Some Advantages of Living Kidney Donation
Time to plan. The organ donation and transplant surgeries can be scheduled when both the donor and recipient are in the best possible health. This will help to ensure the quality of the donated kidney is at its highest. The amount of time between removing the kidney from the donor and transplanting it into the recipient is shorter than for a deceased donation. This may help the transplanted kidney to function better and/or last longer.
Less waiting. The length of time the recipient waits for an organ to become available is shorter when the organ comes from a living donor. Also, other recipients on the transplant waiting list who do not have a living donor themselves, move up the transplant waiting list once the recipient of the living donor kidney is removed from the list. In that way, other people waiting for a kidney transplant also benefit from a living donation.
Avoidance of dialysis. With a living donor kidney, the transplant surgery may take place earlier in the course of the kidney disease, perhaps even before the person begins dialysis treatments.
Better donor organ survival rates. There are three main reasons for this:
- The kidney often lasts longer. A transplanted kidney from a living donor often lasts longer. This is partly due to more time being available to do the necessary tests to get a better tissue match between donor and recipient. A better tissue match means higher compatibility and less risk of organ rejection.
- The kidney is usually healthier. The kidney from a living donor is usually healthier than an organ from a deceased donor and may last longer: 15 to 20 years on average, compared to 10 to 15 years for a deceased kidney donation. This is largely because extensive testing is done on the donor to ensure the donor has excellent kidney function.
- The kidney works right away. A kidney from a living donor usually works right away in the recipient. A kidney from a deceased donor may take days or weeks before it starts to work normally. In the meantime, the recipient may need dialysis treatments.
Feeling of satisfaction. For the donor, it is a very positive psychological experience knowing that he or she has helped someone in need.