Print
Living donor kidney program
Leading the nation in living donor transplant success
At University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, we have tremendous experience in kidney transplantation and success rates you can rely on. The Transplant Center is a world leader in living donor transplantation. In fact, we have the most successful living donor program in the nation. Together with University of Minnesota Physicians, we have performed more than 4,000 living donor transplants. You can have confidence in us for many reasons, including our strong, positive transplant history. View our success rates.
Living donor kidney transplantation provides patients with another option for transplant and has several advantages over a transplant from a deceased donor. The most important of these is a shorter waiting time for an organ.

More than 70,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States. At University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, our living donor kidney transplant program is helping to make more kidney transplants available to those who need them.

Below are some frequently asked questions about living donor kidney transplantation. Additionally, you can find information on financial information for organ donors and tips on finding a living donor. If we can be of further help in answering your questions about living kidney donation, please call 612-625-5115 or 800-328-5465 for a confidential phone consultation.

What is a living donor kidney transplant?
During a living donor kidney transplant, surgeons remove a healthy kidney from the body of the donor (a living person). Surgeons then place the healthy kidney into the body of the person who is in need of a kidney (the recipient). (The recipient's unhealthy kidney is not actually removed). Afterward, both the living organ donor and the recipient can have normal, active lives. In fact, a recent study at the University of Minnesota found that living kidney donors often lead healthier lives than other people and have an excellent quality of life. Click this link to learn more about the New England Journal of Medicine study.

Our living donor kidney transplant program allows friends, relatives or even an anonymous person to donate a kidney to help someone in need. Organ donors provide an important gift because it helps give another person a second chance at life. In recent years, patients in the United States have received almost as many kidneys from living donors as from deceased donors.

Why is a living donor kidney better than a kidney from someone who died?
Living donor kidney transplants offer better outcomes for kidney patients. There is less chance of rejection and a greater chance of long-term success. Donors and kidney patients do not need to be relatives – they don’t even need to know each other.

How common are living donor kidney transplants?
Kidney transplant is the most common type of living donor transplant. The first such transplant in the United States was done in 1954, when a 23-year-old man received a kidney from his twin brother. Since then, there have been thousands of living donor kidney transplants nationwide.

Surgeons at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital have been transplanting kidneys from living donors since the early 1960s. We have performed more living donor kidney transplants than any other center in the world. Of the 200 kidneys we transplant each year, more than half come from living donors.

What are the advantages of using a living donor?
Most of the time, if you need a kidney transplant, you have a much better chance of living a longer, healthier life if you can find a living donor. There are several reasons including:
  • You do not need to wait for an organ from the transplant list. This can take five years or longer. Many people die before they receive an organ from the transplant list.
  • You may get a transplant before you have to go on dialysis. Dialysis can take a toll on your health, restricts your diet and causes a great deal of stress on the whole family.
  • During a living donor transplant, the kidney will be placed into your body as soon as it is removed from the living donor. This means the kidney goes without a blood supply for only a short time. This improves the chances that the kidney will work the way it should. A kidney from someone who has died must be stored for several hours before it is transplanted.
  • The transplant can be done when both you and the donor are in the best physical and emotional health possible. These leads to better outcomes. If you were to have surgery when you are very sick, the transplant is less likely to be successful.
  • A living donor transplant also takes you off the kidney waiting list. This means a shorter wait for other people on the list as well.

What are the results for living donor kidney transplants?
A kidney from a living donor offers better results than a kidney from someone who has died. A living donor kidney often starts working right away in the operating room. An organ from someone who has died may not work right away, and you may need dialysis for a few weeks after your transplant. You are also less likely to reject a living donor kidney, and the kidney may last longer.
In our experience at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, we have had kidney donations from a wonderful range of people: blood relatives, spouses, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and anonymous volunteers between ages 18 and 75.

Donors don’t need to be biologically related to the recipient to have an excellent result because medical advances have produced effective medications to prevent rejection.

What is a positive cross-match and how does it affect donation? Can anything be done about it?
If a donor is tested and the results indicate that there is a positive cross-match, this is what it means: The recipient's body will probably reject the donor organ, and the transplant should not be done. If you or someone you know has been turned down as a donor because of a positive cross-match, you should ask a transplant coordinator about immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. IVIG therapy lowers the Panel Reactive Antibody measurement in people who are highly sensitized and who have difficulty finding suitable living donor organ matches. If you've been previously turned down as a donor because of a positive cross-match, IVIG therapy can make it possible to be reconsidered as a donor.

It is also possible for a donor-recipient pair, with a positive cross match, to find another pair in the same situation through the Paired Exchange program (read more about this below).

What if I want to donate my kidney to someone I know, but I am not a good match? What is Paired Exchange?
A paired exchange option is available through University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. A paired exchange is one way to find a living donor. Sometimes a donor is not compatible with the person to whom he or she wants to donate. Through the paired exchange program, that donor could agree to donate to a different, matching recipient. In exchange, the donor's recipient receives a living donor kidney from someone in the same situation. Both recipients get a living donor kidney through paired exchanged donors. This kind of exchange can be discussed with a transplant coordinator.

Whose decision is it to donate?
The decision to donate an organ is serious and personal. Only you can make the decision after weighing the risks and benefits. Potential donors must voluntarily contact a transplant center and ask to speak with a donor coordinator about donation.

How is a donor evaluation conducted?
A team of medical specialists is dedicated to expertly screen people who are interested in donating a kidney. Donors are given detailed information so they can take the time to carefully consider what is involved. The donation experience is completely confidential and separate from the recipient’s experience. As a donor, you will have your own transplant coordinator -- not the same coordinator as the recipient.

As a donor, you must be physically and psychologically healthy to assure you can safely donate. You must feel comfortable about your decision. If at any time you change your mind, the team will help you make a confidential withdrawal from the procedure.

What is surgery like for donating a kidney?
Most often at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, a kidney is removed using minimally invasive surgery, called laparoscopic surgery. During this type of surgery, the surgeon uses tiny incisions and a telescopic viewing device, instead of a large open incision.

More recent advances in minimally invasive surgery include the DaVinci® robot as a surgical tool. Surgeons from University of Minnesota Physicians were the first in Minnesota to use the DaVinci robot as an extension of the surgeon’s hands. This allows intricate work to be performed under high magnification. It contributes to the advantages of minimally invasive surgery: less pain, smaller scars and quicker recovery.

Who pays for the donation?
There is no cost to you as the donor for required medical tests and surgery. The transplant program does not routinely cover transportation, lodging, lost wages or other non-medical expenses. Sometimes, donors may be financially eligible for a donor grant to help pay some of these expenses. It is against federal law for a donor to be paid for his or her donation. Read more

There is no cost to you as the donor for required medical tests and surgery. The transplant program does not routinely cover transportation, lodging, lost wages or other non-medical expenses. Sometimes, donors may be financially eligible for a donor grant to help pay some of these expenses. It is against federal law for a donor to be paid for his or her donation. Read more

How will donating a kidney affect me for the rest of my life?
Physically, you should expect no long-term problems. However, there are risks associated with any surgery and our staff will carefully review these with you. Psychologically, previous donors have told us that donating was one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives, and they were glad to have had the opportunity to help another person. In addition, a recent study at University of Minnesota showed that kidney donors often lead healthier lives than other people and have an excellent quality of life. To learn more about this study, click here.

At University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, we are committed to long-term follow up of all our living donors. The United Network for Organ Sharing requires that we follow up with donors for at least two years. We also follow our donors over time to be able to monitor long-term outcomes.

How long is the recovery after surgery?
The hospital stay is two to four days, and recovery takes about four to six weeks. However, some donors may return to normal activities earlier.