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Living-Kidney Donation Frequently Asked Questions

Answers about living-donation for anyone thinking about becoming a kidney donor. 

Before Living-Kidney Donor Surgery

Your living-donor kidney transplant nurse coordinator will provide details on how to prepare for your surgery.

We ask all organ donors to take basic health measures. These will help ensure surgery goes smoothly and reduce the recipient's risk of rejecting your kidney.

  • Smoking: If you're a light smoker, please stop smoking at least one month prior to your kidney donation surgery. People who smoke heavily do not make ideal organ donors since smoking increases surgical risks.
  • Alcohol and drugs: Prior to living-donor kidney surgery, you must be sober of alcohol and drugs. We also ask you to inform your living-donor transplant nurse coordinator of any medicines that you take.
  • Oral (by mouth) contraceptives: Donors should stop oral contraceptives around eight weeks prior to kidney donation to prevent blood clots after surgery. We strongly advise you to use other forms of birth control during this time.

Before scheduling living-donor kidney surgery, you will undergo a thorough pre-kidney-donation evaluation.

This will ensure that:

  • You can tolerate the surgical removal of a kidney and remain healthy after, with no increased health risks.
  • The transplant recipient will benefit from your donor kidney.

You will also meet with the living-donor kidney transplant team and ask any questions.

The recipients insurance and UPMC will cover the cost of the evaluation and donor operation. The donor will not be responsible for any part of the transplant evaluation or surgery and will meet with a financial coordinator during the evaluation visit to further answer any questions about the process.

Deciding on Becoming a Living-Kidney Donor

While many wish to donate their kidney to a family member, you can also donate to an unrelated person.

In some kidney transplant cases — depending on a blood type match and other requirements — donors can take part in a kidney exchange or “match.” This means two or more pairs of related donors and recipients donate to each other.

Research has shown little long-term risk or effect on a living-kidney donor.

But, as with any major surgery, kidney donation surgery can include complications such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots

Death is very rare, but has occurred in a few cases.

Our living-donor kidney transplant team will discuss all risks in detail to make sure kidney donation is the right choice for you.

» Learn more: Benefits and risks of living-donor kidney transplant

To become a living donor, you must:

The transplant team at UPMC evaluates potential kidney donors to ensure that you're a good fit for organ donation. We ask that donors have an unselfish desire when wanting to help someone in need of a life-saving kidney transplant.

Living-Kidney Donor Surgery - What to Expect

Following living-donor kidney surgery, you will move to a unit to make sure you do not need further treatment. From there, you will transfer to a transplant recovery floor where you could stay for a few days before going home.

No. You will not need to take any medicine. You will need to receive post-kidney-donation care at UPMC Montefiore to ensure proper healing.

It takes up to two months for most living-kidney donors to recover fully, depending on their job.

On the morning of your living-donor kidney transplant surgery, we will admit you to UPMC Montefiore.

You will meet with the kidney transplant surgeon and anesthesiologist who will:

  • Review the surgery with you.
  • Have you sign consent forms.
  • Answer any last-minute questions.

After the paperwork, you will proceed to the operating room.

Living-donor kidney transplant surgery can take between three and five hours.

Your loved ones can wait in the Ambulatory Surgery Center waiting area where staff will provide frequent updates. After the surgery is complete, your kidney transplant surgeon will also meet with your family members.

Contact Us

Feel free to call UPMC's living-donor kidney transplant team with concerns or questions, toll-free, at (877) 640-6746.

Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn More About Living-Donor Kidney Transplant

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