Carolinas HealthCare System

FAQs for Prospective Living Kidney Donors

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Who can be a donor?

Living donors are required to be at least 18. Although there is no age limit, we screen each individual carefully and require additional testing for those over the age of 60. Your safety is our main focus.

Donors can be parents, children, siblings, other family and friends, co-workers, etc. Donors need to be in good health and free of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, sickle cell disease, HIV or hepatitis to qualify to be a donor. Every donor will be screened individually for suitability for donation.

While living donor transplants from the patients' relatives are considered the most beneficial, transplanted kidneys from living unrelated donors also have excellent success rates. Both types of living donor transplants are more likely to be successful than a deceased donor transplant.

In fact, recent studies have shown that a kidney from an unrelated living donor lasts as long or longer than the best matched kidney from a deceased donor. In addition, the rejection rate for a living donor is significantly lower.

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What if I am unable to donate?

It is normal for some people to be nervous or scared about donating a kidney as well as experiencing guilt about not wanting to be a donor. The only "right" decision is the one that you feel most comfortable with.

Your donor team can help you work through your anxiety, questions and concerns. You should not, under any circumstance, feel pressured to donate. The decision to donate is different for every individual.

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What are my risks of kidney problems in the future?

Your donor team will discuss all health risks with you. The risks of donation are similar to those involved with any other major surgery, such as bleeding and infection. Death from kidney donation is extremely rare. (0.03 percent of recipients, or three in 10,000) Research shows that kidney donation does not change your life expectancy or increase a person's risks of developing kidney disease or other health problems.

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Will donating a kidney affect my quality of life?

The goal of kidney donation is to help to improve the quality of life for the recipient without changing the quality of life for the living donor. We expect you to lead an active, normal life with one kidney. Research has shown that one kidney is sufficient to keep the body healthy, but we encourage a yearly physical and blood work with your primary care physician.

Kidney donors may continue with all types of occupations, exercise, sports, although contact sports are not recommended to decrease the chances of an injury to their remaining kidney.

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Who pays for the donation and what am I responsible for?

All routine testing required for the living donor evaluation as well as the hospitalization costs and physician services provided during the donation process are covered either by the recipient's insurance or Carolinas Medical Center Transplant Center. Transplant-related complications are also covered for at least 90 days. Living donors are responsible for their routine health maintenance testing (Pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.) or medical clearance that may be required for pre-existing conditions.

Travel expenses, child care and lost wages may also be the donor's responsibility. It is important for donors and their families to consider the financial impact of these possible expenses. You may be eligible for assistance for travel, hotel, food, etc., with the "Living Donor Assistance Fund." Review the resource available through the National Living Donor Assistance Center. Your coordinator will help you with this application, if needed.

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What type of follow up will be needed after surgery?

You will have a post-op appointment with your surgeon at about two weeks after surgery and again at eight weeks. Additional follow up will be scheduled at six months, one year and two years after surgery. This will allow us to monitor your kidney function, blood pressure and overall general health. After two years, we recommend annual check-ups with your primary care physician. If you do not have one, we will encourage you to find one.

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How do you start the referral process?

If you are healthy and without signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or any other major medical issues. Review the Information for Potential Living Donors packet (PDF) and complete the Medical History Form (PDF).

Once we have received your completed form, (either by mail, email, or by fax 704-355-4910) we will contact you to begin the evaluation which includes:

  • Blood work for compatibility with your intended recipient
  • Blood work and urine studies to assess your medical status
  • Appointments with a nurse coordinator, social worker, nephrologist, surgeon and our living donor advocate to ensure your suitability for donation.
  • Radiology testing to include:
    • Chest X-ray
    • EKG
    • CAT scan of abdomen and pelvis to view organs, specifically kidneys and surrounding anatomy.

In addition, you will be responsible for providing the following test results as applicable:

  • Recent (within one year) Pap smear result for females over 18
  • Mammogram report for females over 40 or younger if you have a family history of breast cancer
  • Colonoscopy results for patients over 50 (men and women)
  • TB skin test (PPD) within one year

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Additional information from the Transplant Center staff

It is also important to note that, when working with a living donor, transplant surgery can be scheduled when convenient -- a benefit that shortens the dialysis period for a recipient who might otherwise wait years for a suitable deceased donor transplant.
We take pride in our living donor program, and your safety is of our utmost concern. Becoming a living donor is a personal and voluntary decision. The most important thing you can do is to learn as much as possible about the kidney donation process in order to make an informed decision that is right for you and your family. Your donor team is dedicated to maintaining strict confidentiality. The donor team will respect and support whatever decision you make.

If you have additional questions, please call our Living Donor office at 704-355-3602.

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