FAQs & Links

When was the first successful living donor transplant was performed? 
The first successful living donor transplant was performed between 23-year-old identical twins in 1954. Dr. Joseph E. Murray at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Mass., transplanted a healthy kidney from Ronald Herrick into his twin brother, Richard, who had chronic kidney failure. He went on to live an active, normal life. He died eight years later from causes unrelated to the transplant.

Which live organs may be donated? 
A living donor may give a single kidney, a lobe of a lung or liver, or a portion of the pancreas for transplant. A domino transplant makes some heart-lung recipients living heart donors. When a patient receives a heart-lung “bloc” from a cadaveric donor, his or her healthy heart may be given to an individual waiting for a heart transplant if the physicians determine that the cadaveric donor lungs will function best if they are used in conjunction with the cadaveric donor heart.

Number of Living Donor Transplants in the United States from 1988 to 1999 (based on UNOS Scientific Registry data as of September 5, 2000)

Year Kidney Pancreas Liver Heart Lung Total
1988 812 5 0 7 0 1824
1989 1903 4 2 9 0 1918
1990 2094 2 14 12 1 2123
1991 2393 1 22 4 4 2424
1992 2536 3 33 1 0 2573
1993 2850 2 36 2 7 2897
1994 3008 2 60 3 15 3088
1995 3360 7 46 0 23 3436
1996 3606 11 53 1 20 3691
1997 3856 6 71 0 18 3951
1998 4154 2 72 0 24 4552
1999 4474 2 219 1 5 4714

What are the qualifications for becoming a living donor? 
To qualify as a living organ donor, an individual must be physically fit, in good general health, and not have high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and heart disease. Individuals are usually between 18-60 years of age. Gender and race do not matter.

Will donating a kidney prevent you from becoming pregnant or fathering a child? No.

Are there health risks? 
Death from kidney donation is extremely rare (about 3 in 10,000). Donating a kidney does not change your life expectancy. It does not increase your chance of kidney failure. Research studies shows that kidney donation does not appear to put donors at any increased risk for future health problems.

Can someone with Herpes become a donor? 
Having herpes does not absolutely rule someone out for donation but the disease should be quiet and well-suppressed at the time of donation.

What does “living kidney donation” mean?
It means donation by a living donor of a kidney for transplantation, as opposed to a “cadaveric kidney”, which comes from a deceased donor.

What are the advantages of a living kidney transplant?
It has been shown that the chances of a successful transplant are better with living donor organ than with cadaveric kidneys. Patients are spared the often grueling years of waiting spent on hemodialysis (blood cleansing) or continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD).

Kidney dialysis normally reduces the patient’s fitness for work by half, which means changes at the workplace and lower career prospects. The patient’s diet must consist of are an extremely low-salt foods and minimal fluid intake. The need to choose a destination with dialysis facilities restricts the patient’s opportunities to travel or go away on vacation. It is also common for the patient’s relationship to suffer, since sexual problems may arise due to reduced libido or impotence.

Plus, living kidney transplants are more successful, and the closer the blood relationship, the better the results. Surprisingly, however, living kidney donations from non-blood-related partners also show high success rates – even with quite different histocompatibility antigens.

When it is time to consider donation?
When someone has lost 85 to 90 percent of his or her kidney function, either dialysis (removal of wastes from the blood by an artificial kidney machine) or a kidney transplant is necessary. When there is a living donor organ available, the transplant can be scheduled before dialysis and all that it entails must be started.

Do some people have trouble making the decision to become a living organ donor? Sure. Though some people will make the decision without a second thought, others go through a bit of soul-searching before deciding. It’s very normal to be afraid of giving away part of your body and to experience guilt about not wanting to be a donor.