Living Donor Programs | | Loyola Medicine

Living Donor Programs

Living Donor Programs at Loyola Medicine

More than 115,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for kidney and liver transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and American Liver Foundation.

While the wait time for a deceased-donor transplant can last several years, living kidney and liver donations can dramatically reduce wait times and lead to better outcomes.

In general, living-donor kidney transplants have several advantages over deceased-donor kidney transplants:

  • Kidney donors and recipients have more flexibility in scheduling their surgeries.
  • Living-donor kidneys are available sooner, which can limit or possibly eliminate the need for dialysis for end-stage kidney disease patients.
  • Living-donor kidneys often start to function immediately after transplant surgery compared to a deceased-donor kidney, which can take days or weeks to start functioning.
  • Living-donor organs often come from a relative and may be a closer match.
  • Short- and long-term survival rates are significantly better than with deceased-donor kidneys.
  • The donated kidney usually spends less time outside of the body, which improves its viability.

In general, living-donor liver transplants have several advantages over deceased-donor liver transplants:

  • As opposed to deceased-donor livers, living-donor livers are available sooner, which can limit complications.
  • Liver donors and recipients have more flexibility in scheduling their surgeries.
  • Living-donor livers often start to function immediately after transplant surgery.
  • Living-donor organs often come from a relative and may be a closer match.
  • The donated liver spends less time outside of the body, which improves its viability.

If you have made the decision to become a living donor, you likely have seen a loved one go through much suffering because of a serious condition. Your kidney or partial liver donation is life-saving for a patient with an end-stage disease.

In addition to Loyola's expert, board-certified transplant surgeons, the infectious disease team works with donors and recipients to ensure that the transferred tissue is as healthy as possible. Our skilled and compassionate nurse coordinators work closely with living donors, providing support and answering questions before surgery and long after surgery.

Comprehensive Evaluation and Testing for Living Donors

Weighing the possibility of donating one of your kidneys or part of your liver is a noble endeavor, and we want to be sure that you are truly ready to donate. Discuss what you are feeling with your care team, family, friends, counselor or clergy.

What the Kidneys and Liver Do

Most people are born with two kidneys, which remove waste material from the blood and body in the form of urine, control blood pressure and stimulate the production of red blood cells. When one kidney is removed, the other adapts and can take on the additional work of the donated kidney.

The liver plays a key role in all metabolic processes in the body, producing proteins that are central to blood clotting, acting as a filter for the blood and removing toxins and damaged blood cells. When part of the liver is removed, it soon starts to regenerate itself.

Requirements for Living Donors

There are various requirements to become a living donor, starting with a questionnaire about your health. If there are no conditions that would prevent you from safely donating, you will have the option to move forward with initial blood tests.

If you are found to be a possible candidate for donation, you will proceed to a comprehensive medical evaluation. The evaluation includes a detailed personal and medical history, a physical exam and tests which may include:

  • Antibody screening
  • Arteriogram
  • Blood tests
  • Blood type test
  • Cancer screenings
  • Chest X-ray
  • Cross-matching blood test
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Electrocardiogram
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Psychosocial evaluation
  • Tissue typing
  • Urine test​

The evaluation will also include a meeting with a psychologist for examination to ensure you are completely prepared for making such an important decision and to go over how this will impact your:

  • Current and future health
  • Emotional health
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Life insurance status
  • Physical health

You will also meet with one of Loyola's financial coordinators. Usually the recipient’s insurance company pays for the labs, evaluations, donor surgery, post-surgery care and clinical visits. These details will be confirmed during the appointment with your financial coordinator. Patients are responsible for their own transportation, lodging and any lost wages from missed days at work. However, your living donor advocate (LDA) can help determine whether you are eligible for financial assistance.

It is important to know that you have the right to delay or stop the process at any time. Your care team is completely separate from the recipient’s team. Nothing you discuss with your LDA or anything related to your medical condition is ever discussed with the recipient’s team. You are free to change your mind about donation at any time. The only two categories for a living donor are eligible or ineligible. You can tell your living donor advocate in complete confidence that you no longer want to donate; and the only thing ever told to the recipient and the recipient’s team is that you are not eligible to donate.

Learn more in our kidney and liver transplant frequently asked questions.

Living Donation – What to Expect

Kidney and liver donation generally does not compromise the donor's life expectancy, lifestyle or increase health risks. Donors will have Loyola's expansive network of primary care and specialty care specialists at their disposal, making it more convenient to receive care before and after the donation surgery.

Once you have been approved as a donor, your care team will work with you and your organ recipient to arrange the surgeries. This is usually scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Your donation surgery will immediately precede the recipient's transplant surgery.

After the surgery, you may be released from the hospital within the next seven days based on the organ donated. All living donors have post-surgery follow-up care for at least two years and your Loyola healthcare team will help you transition to your primary care doctor, who will be updated on your care every step of the way.

Learn more in our kidney and liver transplant frequently asked questions.

What Are the Risks with Living Kidney and Liver Donation?

Living kidney and liver donation does involve surgery, and with any surgery there are risks.

Risks for kidney surgery include:

  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Death
  • Developing high blood pressure
  • Hernia
  • Increased protein levels in the urine
  • Infection at incision site
  • Nearby organ damage or failure
  • Need for dialysis or transplant surgery
  • Pain
  • Pneumonia
  • Potential need for blood transfusions​

Risks for livers surgery include:

  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Bile leakage
  • Biliary obstruction
  • Biliary stricture
  • Bleeding duodenal ulcer
  • Blood clots
  • Death
  • Gastric outlet obstruction
  • Gastric perforation
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Hyperbilirubinemia
  • Infection at the incision site

Remember, your Loyola transplant team will guide you through the decision to donate, as well as the evaluation, surgery and recovery process. Your clinicians will help you weigh the risks of surgery to determine if you can safely donate. If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Loyola Medicine Transplant Center at 708-327-4TXP/708-327-4897.