Requirements for living kidney donor candidates
- You must be at least 21 years old and without major medical or psychiatric illness.
- Smokers have more trouble with pneumonia, hernias and healing. We will encourage you to quit, and will help you do so with your consent.
- You must not be pregnant. Women on birth control pills must stop taking them 30 days before surgery, and wait at least three months after surgery before resuming use, because of the risk of blood clots.
- You must meet with the Transplantation Surgery team once prior to transplant surgery.
- You must avoid aspirin and other similar drugs (such as Advil or Motrin) for at least seven days before surgery, as they increase the risk of bleeding complications during surgery.
- It is recommended that you have health insurance, although neither you nor your insurance company will be charged for kidney donation.
- You are expected to have a primary care doctor. We would be happy to help you find a primary care doctor if needed.
Steps to become a living kidney donor
Call Transplantation Surgery, or submit our form
Call our team, or submit our living donor form to express your interest in becoming a living kidney donor. Our living kidney donor coordinator will call you to record your health history and ask for proof of your blood type.
We do not change a kidney recipient's status on the deceased (cadaveric) kidney donor waiting list while we are evaluating you as a potential living kidney donor.
Review the donor information packet
Our living kidney donor coordinator will mail an information packet to you. The packet includes articles about laparoscopic surgery. After reviewing the packet, if you are ready to become a donor, please call the coordinator to proceed.
Schedule preliminary testing
Before we can begin any testing, we require that you sign and return a Living Donor consent form. This form is included in the Donor Information Packet, though you may also print and mail it to our office. View the instructions on being evaluated as a living donor.
A tissue typing and crossmatching test will be performed to make sure you and the kidney recipient are compatible. Test results normally take two to three weeks to process and must be received before organ donation can continue. During this time we will also have you collect some urine so we can test your kidney function. If you and your donor are not compatible, it is usually possible to exchange kidneys with another pair of patients who are also not compatible, so both recipients can get transplanted.
Undergo initial evaluation
Our living kidney donor coordinator will schedule an appointment for you to be examined by a nephrologist, or kidney specialist. During the appointment, the nephrologist will review your medical history and current physical condition. You will also meet with our:
- Financial coordinator
- Independent donor advocate
- Living kidney donor coordinator
- Social worker
All of these specialists will spend some time with you, to make sure you are making a safe decision.
The nephrologist will order several medical tests, including blood and urine tests, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). If the test results are favorable, you will also get a CAT scan that day, to make sure you have two healthy kidneys.
Undergo final matching (the final crossmatch)
Two weeks before the scheduled surgery date, you will undergo a final crossmatching test with the kidney recipient, to make sure your blood and the recipient's blood are compatible. You will meet your surgeon at this time.
The day before your surgery, you will be asked to follow a liquid diet between noon and midnight. Do not eat between midnight and your surgery time. Our team will give you instructions about your prescription medications during your final appointment before surgery.
At Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, all live donor kidneys are removed using a minimally invasive technique. This technique reduces the pain and discomfort for the donor, and allows a faster recovery.
On the day of surgery, you will come to the hospital, where our team will prepare you for surgery in the same day surgery center. You will then be taken to the operating room for laparoscopic nephrectomy, minimally-invasive removal of the kidney, which takes about three hours to complete.
Staying at the hospital, follow-up visits and return to normal activity
Living kidney donors are usually ready to go home one or two days after surgery.
You will need to return for a follow-up visit two weeks after leaving the hospital. Yearly check-ups with your primary care physician are encouraged following kidney donation. The living donor team will see you—or at least check in and review lab results—6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after your donation.
Living kidney donors usually return to work four to six weeks after laparoscopic surgery. Avoid driving for at least two to three weeks after surgery. The vast majority of patients who are allowed to donate will quickly recover normal or near normal kidney function. This will remain true, with good health care, for the rest of their lives.