What is living kidney donation?
The kidneys remove waste products from our blood. They also control the levels of salt and fluid in our bodies. Sometimes an illness or a disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can cause the kidneys to fail. When this happens, it is called “end-stage kidney disease”, because the kidneys are nearing the end of their ability to work correctly. When the kidneys stop working, the patient must have some type of treatment to remove the waste products from the blood. One option is a kidney transplant. The kidney can come from a healthy living person (living donor) or from someone who has recently died (deceased donor). Dialysis is another option. Dialysis uses a machine to remove waste products from the blood. For those who are eligible, transplant from a living donor is the best option.
What are the advantages of living kidney donation?
- For patients who have end-stage kidney disease and are eligible for a kidney transplant, a kidney from a living donor is the best treatment.
- A kidney from a living donor usually lasts longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.
- A living kidney donation can reduce or even prevent the patient’s need for dialysis.
- Every patient who receives a transplant from a living donor comes off the wait-list for a kidney from a deceased donor. This shortens the wait-time for other patients on the transplant waitlist.
- The donation and transplant operations can be planned for a time when both the potential donor and the transplant candidate are in the best possible health. Being in good health improves the recovery after surgery.
- Many people who have donated a kidney say that helping someone in need is a positive personal experience.
Can anyone donate a kidney?
Any healthy adult can be considered for living kidney donation. A potential donor could be a family member, friend, neighbour, or acquaintance of the transplant candidate. The potential donor does not have to be the same age, sex or ethnicity as the transplant candidate. In fact, it can be anyone who is willing to donate.
Both the potential donor and the transplant candidate must complete medical tests and evaluations to before they can go ahead with donation and transplantation. For example, the potential donor must be healthy enough to have surgery and to remain healthy with only one kidney. Likewise, even though the transplant candidate has end-stage kidney disease and needs a new kidney, this person must be healthy enough to have the surgery and be able to handle the antirejection treatment afterwards. Special blood tests are done to see if the donor’s blood and tissue type match the transplant candidate. If these factors match, the potential donor and the candidate are called a “compatible pair” and the candidate can receive a kidney from that donor. The medical tests and evaluations will require daytime medical appointments.
After the donation, it is expected that the donor will remain in good health. Staying healthy includes getting regular checkups and health care from their family doctor.
What if the potential donor and transplant candidate are not a match?
If the blood tests show that the potential donor and the transplant candidate do not match, they are called an “incompatible pair.” This could happen if the donor’s blood type is not compatible with the transplant candidate’s blood type. Or, it could mean that the transplant candidate has proteins in their blood (known as antibodies) that will reject a kidney from that donor. If the potential donor is not compatible with the transplant candidate, they can still try to find a suitable kidney for the transplant candidate through the Kidney Paired Donation program. This program tries to match kidney donors with transplant candidates who need a kidney. Ask your living kidney donation program or transplant centre for more information.
How do I get started?
If you know a person who is waiting for a kidney transplant, you can talk to them. Or, you can contact a living donation program in your province. If you would like to become a non-directed anonymous donor a living donation program in your province can give you more information.
Contact information for the living donation programs can be found below:
Transplant Manitoba - Gift of Life Living Donor Program
Newfoundland and Labrador
Western Health – Western Memorial Regional Hospital – Corner Brook
Phone: 709-637-5000 ext. 5396
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Cape Breton Regional Hospital – Sydney
Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre – Halifax
Phone: 416-340-4800 ext. 4848
*Please contact the team at University Health Network – Toronto General to be evaluated as a living donor on behalf of a child at Hospital for Sick Kids.
Phone: 519-685-8500 (ext. 35932)
Phone: 905-522-1155 ext. 33780
Phone: 613-738-8400 ext. 82778
Phone: 613-549-6666 ext. 7838
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal
Phone: 514-890-8000 ext. 26616
Phone: 514-252-3400 ext. 3308
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal - Sainte-Justine
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec - Laval University
Phone: 418-525-4444 ext. 15262
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke
Phone: 819-346-1110 ext. 14129
McGill University Health Centre
Phone: 514-934-1934 ext. 36003