Donating a Kidney

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Topic Overview

Kidney transplantation is the best way known to save a person's life after he or she develops kidney failure. In the past, kidneys were only taken from living close relatives or from people who had recently died. But transplants from both living and deceased donors have a good chance of success. The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney can be as long as 8 years in some places in Canada. For this reason, more people are making the decision to become kidney donors.

Who can become a kidney donor?

Almost anyone can become a kidney donor. A living donor needs to be:

  • In good general health.
  • Free from diseases that can damage the organs, such as diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or cancer.
  • Willing to donate.
  • Age 18 or older.

What steps should I take to become a kidney donor?

If you want to become a kidney donor, you need to contact the Living Donor Program in your area. The living donor coordinator is a registered nurse who can answer any questions you may have regarding living donation and will help get the process started. The coordinator will complete a medical social history with you and discuss aspects of living donation including the potential benefits and risks.

Potential donors will have blood, urine and radiology (x-rays, ultrasound) testing to determine suitability for donation and will meet with the social worker at the transplant facility. All your information is confidential. If you are not blood group compatible to the recipient you can still be a living donor through a program called Living Donor Paired Exchange (LDPE), the work up process is the same.

When will I meet with a doctor?

The Medical Director of the living donor program oversees the initial testing for the living donor.

Once testing is completed, you will be assigned a nephrologist (kidney specialist) who will complete a medical history and physical exam. You may also have a CT scan of the kidneys to evaluate your kidneys, urinary tract, and other structures in your pelvis.

What is involved in kidney transplant surgery?

You will meet with a transplant surgeon prior to booking a surgery date. The surgeon will discuss the two surgical options available including an open or laparoscopic procedure to remove the donor kidney. The transplant surgeon will inform you which procedure is best for you. The surgeon will review the risks of the surgery with you and also complete a physical exam.

A general anaesthetic is given in the operating room. You can anticipate a 3 to 5 day stay in the hospital.

What are the risks of becoming a kidney donor?

Donating a kidney has not caused an increase in other health problems for donors. Organ donors continue to be carefully studied by many research groups in Canada. The risk of death following kidney donation is extremely rare.

What limitations will I have after I have donated a kidney?

Donating a kidney will not cause any limitations in your normal daily activities. After the recovery from your surgery, you will be able to resume all of your normal activities, including exercising and participating in sports.

Donating a kidney will not affect your ability to become pregnant, carry a child to term, or father a child. Pregnancy is usually not recommended for at least 6 months after surgery.

Who pays my hospital costs?

In Canada, your medical costs will be covered by the recipient's provincial health plan.

More information

For more information on becoming a kidney donor, see:

  • The Kidney Foundation of Canada at
  • Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at This is a part of Canadian Blood Services.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerTushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014