FAQ'S

Answers to some of your frequently asked questions

Why would someone need a transplant rather than dialysis? 

Dialysis is a treatment that performs some of the functions carried out by healthy kidneys. For most patients, dialysis means being hooked up to a machine 3 times a week for 4 hours each time. Many people are unable to work while on dialysis due to its debilitating side effects including low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. According to WebMD.com the survival rate for patients on dialysis for one year is 77%. At five years the survival rate drops to 28% and just 10% of patients survive ten years on dialysis. Dialysis generally comes with a restricted diet. A kidney transplant recipient, in contrast, does not usually have any major restrictions following the transplant, though of course a healthy, well-balanced diet is always recommended. Dialysis does not bring kidney function back to normal, but only to approximately 10- 15% of normal; it is better than dying of End-Stage Renal Disease but remains a painful, debilitating, and time-consuming course of treatment. While dialysis keeps a patient alive, a kidney transplant will give them back their life. In addition, the life expectancy for someone who receives a transplant is much longer than compared with someone on dialysis.

Why is a living donor transplant better than a deceased donor transplant?

On average a deceased donor kidney lasts 10 years, whereas a living kidney lasts an average of 15-20 years. As these are just averages, each situation is different. A variety of factors such as overall health and lifestyle of the recipient contribute to the lifespan of the kidney. In some cases, transplanted living donor kidneys have been known to last for many decades. With regard to a deceased donor kidney, there is a significant chance that the kidney won’t work initially, thereby complicating the post-operative care and increasing the chance of complications. Conversely, a living donor kidney works right away in about 95% of cases.

What kind of testing does a living donor undergo?

Every potential living donor is put through battery of tests, such as blood, urine, EKG, CT scans, as well as psychological evaluations to ensure the long term health of the donor and increase the chance of successful donation and transplantation. Depending on the hospital, testing usually takes one to two days at the hospital that will perform the transplant.  

Is there an age limit for being a kidney donor?

Each hospital has its own restrictions on whom they will accept as a donor. Generally, hospitals will accept a donor up to age 70. The lower age limit is 18; minors are not allowed to be living donors.

Blood Type Matches

There are four blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Generally speaking, each blood type matches with their own, with the exception of type O, which can match with any blood type. In addition, every person has a genetic “fingerprint” defined by his/her HLA. These are different antigens within the blood that make the blood either more compatible or less compatible with someone else’s blood even when it is the same blood type. However, the RH factor in one’s blood (for example: Type A positive or Type B negative) is not involved in matching a donor with a recipient. Blood relatives are generally the best match, though often the testing reveals that the underlying issues affecting the patient affect other family members as well. 

Who can donate & what are some of the factors that rule out a potential donor?

A donor must be in general good health. Someone with a history of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney stones may be disqualified. A family history of any of the above does not automatically disqualify someone from being a donor. There can be exceptions as well, so even someone with a prior history of any of the above should speak with the hospital’s transplant coordinator to fully assess if they are a candidate for donation.

What does the procedure involve?

Today, over 95% of donations are done through a process called laparoscopic nephrectomy.  Since this technique uses smaller incisions than an open nephrectomy, donors benefit greatly from reduced post-operative pain, speedier recovery time, and less scarring. The operation lasts 3 to 4 hours and requires general anesthesia. 

How will this impact the donor’s health?

A donor must be in general good health. Someone with a history of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney stones may be disqualified. A family history of any of the above does not automatically disqualify someone from being a donor. There can be exceptions as well, so even someone with a prior history of any of the above should speak with the hospital’s transplant coordinator to fully assess if they are a candidate for donation.

How will this impact the donor’s health?

Once a donor has recuperated from the surgery, he or she can expect to lead a completely normal life. There is no need to take any special medications, follow any dietary restrictions, or limit one’s physical activities. However, a kidney donor is cautioned regarding high impact recreational activities and contact sports to prevent injury to the remaining kidney. Drinking water is recommended to everyone as a good habit to keep one’s kidney(s) hydrated. Regular checkups with your doctor are strongly recommended as well. 

Are there any financial incentives for donation?

It is against the law to give money or gifts in exchange for a kidney. However, ancillary expenses such as loss of wages, travel expenses, food, etc.