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What Does it Take to be a Living Kidney Donor?

In Brief

  • With more than 100,000 people on the national deceased donor organ waiting list, more and more people are depending on family, friends, loved ones and – in some cases – even total strangers to become living organ donors.
  • Crozer-Keystone Health System provides potential donors with information to consider when becoming a living kidney donor.
  • The surgical procedure to remove kidney removed is called a nephrectomy.
  • Though there are risks with donating a kidney, there are also many positive aspects.

Have you ever known anyone who has received a kidney transplant? Have you ever considered becoming an organ donor yourself? With more than 100,000 people on the national deceased donor organ waiting list, more and more people are depending on family, friends, loved ones and – in some cases – even total strangers to become living organ donors. 

John Daller, M.D., Ph.D.

John Daller, M.D.,
Ph.D., FACS

“Kidneys from living donors often work better for transplant recipients,” said John Daller, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, director of the Crozer-Keystone Regional Kidney Transplant Center. “The waiting time is shorter and the donors tend to be younger and healthier. We appreciate the gifts our living donors provide and their willingness to help others in need.” 

Of course, it is important to think thoroughly about your decision to become a living kidney donor. Crozer-Keystone Health System provides potential donors with information to consider when becoming a living kidney donor. Donors must be fully informed about possible risks as well as benefits. A “Living Donor Advocate” is provided for all potential donors by Crozer-Keystone to help them explore their interest in becoming a donor and to help navigate them through the process. 

If you are considering becoming an organ donor, you may want to research in advance the qualifications and recommendations for donors. Crozer-Keystone’s Kidney Transplant Center website, www.CrozerKidney.org is a great place to start. Individuals chosen for kidney donation are usually between 18 to 60 years old, physically fit, in good general health and free from diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease. All donors will also receive a blood test to determine their blood type to determine compatibility with that of the recipient. Other tests must also be done to ensure that the living donor is capable to donate a kidney to the recipient. This testing is designed to ensure the overall good health of each prospective donor. This process is usually considered the “most thorough physical examination” anyone will ever experience in his or her life. 

What is the Surgery Like?

The surgical procedure to remove kidney removed is called a nephrectomy. The removal can be done one of two ways: either with a laparoscopic nephrectomy, which is done in a vast majority of cases, or an open nephrectomy. 

The laparoscopic nephrectomy is a minimally invasive surgery for obtaining a kidney from a living donor. The surgeon makes two or three small incisions close to the belly button and a special camera called a laparoscope is used to guide the surgeon once inside the abdominal cavity. The laparoscopic nephrectomy reduces recuperation time and usually shortens hospital stays. In many instances, donors are discharged from the hospital after two days and can return to their normal activities within four weeks. In some cases the donor is not a candidate for the laparoscopic procedure, in which case the open procedure is performed. 

What Happens After Donation?

Crozer-Keystone’s Kidney Transplant Center team will also ask that you have several follow-up appointments and laboratory tests up to two years after the surgery has been completed. Once the first year post surgery is over and no complications are present, you are able to return to your family doctor for regularly scheduled appointments. This precaution is taken in order to ensure that you are recovering properly. 

Though there are risks with donating a kidney, there are also many positive aspects. Just knowing that the gift of an organ can save a life is a positive thought to have when deciding to become a living donor. Donors have discussed the positive emotional experiences they have had because of their donation and knowing they were able to improve another person’s life. Another positive aspect of a living donation is that it makes it possible to schedule the transplant at a time that is convenient for the donor and the transplant recipient. Also, a kidney from a living donor usually works in a transplant candidate immediately in comparison to kidneys from deceased donors. A living donor can remove a candidate from the national waiting list and help them recover faster.

Organ donation is your choice and should a person decide to change their mind at any point in the process, it is perfectly okay, no questions asked. Throughout your entire experience, it is important to talk to the KidneyTransplantCenter team about what you can expect and about any other questions or concerns you might have. Obviously all surgeries have risks, however overall risks for kidney transplant donors are considered low. 

Becoming a kidney donor takes a lot of commitment. However, taking the first step and responding to the need for organ donors can be life changing. Your attempt at making a change in someone else’s life can turn out to be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. 

For more information about the Crozer-Keystone Regional Kidney Transplant Center, visit the website or call (610) 619-8420. You can also e-mail kidney@crozer.org with any questions. Read more about the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the national waiting list. 

Contact Us

Crozer-Keystone Health System

Grant Gegwich, Vice President

Phone: 610-447-6316
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-604-1728

Crozer-Chester Medical Center
Kate Stier, Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Community Hospital
Kate Stier,  Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Springfield Hospital
Kate Stier,  Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Healthplex Sports Club
Kate Stier, Director

Phone: 610-447-6314
Fax: 610-447-2015
Pager: 610-541-3130

Delaware County Memorial Hospital

Mary Wascavage
Director of Public Relations and Marketing

Phone: 610-284-8619
Fax: 610-284-8606
Pager: 610-318-0861

Taylor Hospital

Mary Wascavage, Director

Phone: 610-284-8619
Fax: 610-284-8606
Pager: 610-318-0861