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Kidney Transplant Living Donor Center

Welcome to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Living Donor Center. We are devoted to helping prospective living kidney donors navigate the complexities of donation, from the moment that they first express interest in kidney donation all the way through long-term health maintenance and follow up post-donation.

In addition to working closely with our living donors, we also assist our patients who are on the kidney transplant waitlist through the process of finding a living donor. Through our many years of experience, we have learned that this is a topic of particular interest to patients.

The popularity and frequency of living kidney donation has been increasing steadily nationwide over the past several years. This is a significant trend, as living donation presents the best opportunity for long-term transplant success.

Our multidisciplinary donor team specializes in evaluating and caring for our living donors. The BWH Living Donor program has the longest experience worldwide and currently manages one of the largest living kidney donor programs in New England.

What is Living Kidney Donation?

A living donor kidney transplant is a transplant in which a healthy kidney is given to a recipient by another living person. These living kidney donors can be blood relatives, non-blood relatives, friends, or altruistic donors. While many living kidney donor surgeries involve an individual donor giving to an individual recipient, kidney "swaps" and "chains" are also common. These Kidney Paired Exchanges involve more than one donor and recipient and can be good options when a living kidney donor is medically capable of donation but is not a suitable match for the intended recipient.

Why Living Kidney Donation?

  • Studies show that the quality of a kidney from a living donor, related or unrelated, tends to be superior to that of a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • There is no waiting time, whereas waiting for a deceased donor match can often take many months or several years.
  • The transplant can be performed at a time that is ideal for both the donor and the recipient.

Donor Evaluation Process

Donating a kidney to another human being is a wonderful gift, and also a very significant one. It is important the potential donors understand the benefits and risks of donation. Throughout the evaluation process, our team places significant emphasis on educating living kidney donors.

The first step in the path to donation is completing a comprehensive health questionnaire by email or phone. Once you have returned the questionnaire, one of our living donor transplant coordinators, who focuses exclusively on the evaluation of potential donors, will review your responses to determine your initial eligibility as a donor and guide you through subsequent steps.

If your initial screening does not reveal significant contraindications to donation, the next step is to complete initial blood and urine screening tests. These tests can be completed at a lab facility convenient to you. Your coordinator will provide you with additional instructions on how to complete these tests.

If the results of your blood and urine tests do not reveal any significant contraindications to donation, the next step is usually to come into our clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for a medical evaluation. In most cases, we can complete all of the additional necessary testing in a one-day visit. These evaluations are performed by multiple members of our team, including nurse coordinators, social workers, psychiatrists, surgeons, nephrologists, and donor advocates. Notably, our dedicated living donor advocate, living donor RN coordinators, and general nephrologist only evaluate potential donors, not recipients – an arrangement that allows the team to independently focus on the best interests of the living donor candidates.

Donor Surgery – Minimally-Invasive Kidney Removal

Since 2005, we have removed nearly all living donor kidneys with a retroperitoneal (behind the abdomen) flank approach. This is a minimally-invasive surgical technique that is superior to the traditional approach. Potential benefits of this technique include less pain, shorter hospitalization, and a rapid return to normal activity. Laparoscopic surgery, therefore, can make donating a kidney to a loved one easier.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital has had tremendous success with this laparoscopic technique, having performed over 450 of these procedures without any major complications. Our experience indicates that this approach delivers outstanding outcomes.

Using the laparoscope, surgeons make only one small incision below the navel – about two to three inches – as well as four additional small holes through which they insert instruments. The laparoscope contains a miniature camera that enables surgeons to watch their movements on a video monitor. The traditional "open" surgery requires an incision through the abdominal muscles that is about 10 inches long.

Patient Resources

Please see our Patient Education and Support page for a full list of instructor-led programs and educational videos. There are number of sessions that focus exclusively on living kidney donation – for potential donors and recipients.

See our Guide to Living Kidney Donation (PDF)

Would You Like to Be a Donor?

If you’re ready to see whether you could be a living kidney donor, please click here {Disclaimer Below} to initiate the comprehensive evaluation process.

Living Donor Center
Phone (617) 732-6866, option 3
Fax (617) 394-3217

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