Heroic. Brave. Altruistic. Loving. Those are just a few of the words that describe kidney donors. If you’re considering donating, or have a close friend or family member in need of a kidney, you might be wondering what the general requirements for donating a kidney are. On this page, we’ll cover:
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Living Donations vs. Deceased Donations
There are two types of organ donation: living and deceased.
Living Kidney Donation
In this post, we’ll be focused on living organ donation. Living kidney donation has a number of benefits compared to deceased organ donation. Why is that?
Why Living Kidney Donations Are Ideal
The reason live kidney donations are ideal can be boiled down to two main factors: they allow for a better match, and they lead to better outcomes.
Live kidney donations are a better match because tests and assessments can be made over a longer period of time, and both the recipient and the donor can have ample time to prepare for the operation.
Additionally, because the kidney is only briefly disconnected from the body, it’s healthier and performs better. As a result, a kidney from a live donor can last around a decade longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.
Deceased Organ Donation
Deceased organ donation occurs when a person suffers brain death, usually after a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or heart attack. After this, the deceased’s body will be supported artificially with medical equipment.
If the person has signed up to be an organ donor, their family will be notified; if they haven’t signed up to be an organ donor, the medical staff will consult with the family to determine whether organs will be donated. When everything is in order, the donor will have their organs recovered and be promptly matched with a recipient.
Deceased organ donation is an incredibly complicated and fast process. Nevertheless, it has a huge impact on the lives of recipients with positive outcomes.
What Are the Requirements for Donating a Kidney?
Donating a kidney is a huge commitment for both you as the donor, and the recipient. Therefore, the requirements for donating a kidney are quite extensive.
Required Tests Prior to Kidney Donation
Health Requirements for Kidney Donors
In addition to having a matching blood type and being free of cancer or chronic kidney disease, you’ll need to meet other health requirements as a donor. You won’t be able to donate if you have:
General Kidney Donation Requirements
Finally, there are some last requirements that, while they may seem obvious, are worth mentioning. To donate a kidney, you must be at least 18—although, depending on the clinic or organization, you may be required to be 21.
Additionally, you won’t be able to donate a kidney if you’re extremely obese according to the body mass index scale. Obesity increases your risk for diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease, which could put your health at risk following your donation. The surgical operation involved with a kidney donation is also riskier if you are obese.
FAQs About Kidney Donation Requirements
What if I’m Not Compatible With My Intended Recipient?
It can be depressing if you were planning to donate a kidney to someone close to you but later found out that you weren’t medically compatible. However, if you’re not a direct match, you still have options:
Plasmapheresis is a process of removing plasma from your recipient’s blood. This prevents their antibodies from attacking and rejecting the kidney. Your kidney recipient would undergo plasmapheresis several times prior to and following the transplant, while also taking immunosuppressant medications to assist the adoption of their new kidney.
Kidney Exchange or 'Swap' Programs
Kidney exchange programs exist to match incompatible donor pairs. For example, let’s say you’re A, and your intended recipient is B. Unfortunately, you two are incompatible. Meanwhile, across the state or country, donor C’s intended recipient is D, and they’re also incompatible. However, you (A) could be compatible with D, and C could be compatible with B.
These kidney ‘swap’ programs can help donor/recipient pairs find a perfect match close to 50% of the time.
Can I Donate a Kidney if I’m HIV Positive?
Yes; in 2013, the HOPE Act was passed to allow HIV-positive individuals to register as organ donors, and the first living HIV-to-HIV kidney transplant was successfully completed in 2019. While the requirements for donation may be more complex for HIV-positive donors, it’s possible and important, as HIV-positive people are more likely to develop end-stage renal disease.
Considering Kidney Donation? Start the Evaluation Process With Milwaukee Nephrologists
Donating a kidney can save a life—a fact so obvious and profound there’s nothing left to say. However, it will impact your health in addition to your recipient’s. To learn more or start the transplant evaluation process, get in touch with Milwaukee Nephrologists today.