Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Process

What is a living donor kidney transplant?

During a living donor kidney transplant, surgeons remove a kidney from a healthy living person. Surgeons then place the healthy kidney into the person who is in need of a kidney, otherwise known as a recipient. The recipient's unhealthy kidney is not actually removed. Afterward, both the living organ donor and the recipient can lead normal, active lives. In fact, recent studies have found that living kidney donors often lead healthier lives and have an excellent quality of life. Our living-donor kidney transplant program allows friends, relatives or even an anonymous person to donate a kidney to help someone in need. Organ donors provide an important gift because it helps give another person a second chance at life. 

Why is a living-donor kidney better than a kidney from someone who died?

Living-donor kidney transplants offer better outcomes for kidney patients. There is less chance of rejection and a greater chance of long-term success. Donors and kidney patients do not need to be relatives – they don’t even need to know each other.

How common are living-donor kidney transplants?

Kidney transplantation is the most common type of living-donor transplant. The first such transplant in the United States was done in 1954, when a 23-year-old man received a kidney from his twin brother. Since then, there have been thousands of living-donor kidney transplants nationwide. Surgeons at Tampa General Hospital have been transplanting kidneys from living donors since 1974. We have performed over 1,000 living donor kidney transplants. Approximately 20% of our annual transplants are from living donors.

What are the advantages of using a living donor?
  • Living donation provides you with a much better chance of living a longer, healthier life.
  • You do not need to wait for an organ from the transplant list. This can take 3 years or longer. Many people die before they receive an organ from the transplant list.
  • You may get a transplant before you have to go on dialysis. Dialysis can take a toll on your health, restricts your diet and causes a great deal of stress on the whole family.
  • During a living-donor transplant, the kidney will be placed into your body as soon as it is removed from the living donor. This means the kidney goes without a blood supply for only a short time. This improves the chances that the kidney will work the way it should. A kidney from someone who has died must be stored for several hours before it is transplanted.
  • The transplant can be done when both you and the donor are in the best physical and emotional health possible. This leads to better outcomes. If you were to have surgery when you are very sick, the transplant is less likely to be successful.
  • A living donor transplant also takes you off the kidney waiting list. This means a shorter wait for other people on the list as well.
What are the results for living-donor kidney transplants?

A kidney from a living donor offers better results than a kidney from someone who has died. A living-donor kidney often starts working right away in the operating room. An organ from someone who has died may not work right away, and you may need dialysis for a few weeks after your transplant. You are also less likely to reject a living donor kidney, and the kidney may last longer. At Tampa General Hospital, we have had kidney donations from a range of people: blood relatives, spouses, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and anonymous volunteers among a range of ages. Donors don’t need to be biologically related to the recipient to have an excellent result because medical advances have produced effective medications to prevent rejection.

What is a positive cross-match and how does it affect donation? Can anything be done about it?

If a donor is tested and the results indicate that there is a positive cross-match the transplant should not be done. This is because the recipient’s body will probably reject the donor organ. If you or someone you know has been turned down as a donor because of a positive cross-match, you should ask a transplant coordinator about paired donation. It is also possible for a donor-recipient pair, with different blood types, to find another pair in the same situation through the Paired Exchange program (read more about this below).

What if I want to donate my kidney to someone I know, but I am not a good match? What is Paired Exchange?

A paired exchange option is available at Tampa General Hospital through National Kidney Registry and the UNOS Kidney Paired Exchange Program. A paired exchange is one way to find a living donor. Sometimes a donor is not compatible with the person to whom he or she wants to donate. Through the paired exchange program, that donor could agree to donate to a different, matching recipient. In exchange, the donor's recipient receives a living donor kidney from someone in the same situation. Both recipients get a living donor kidney through paired exchanged donors. This kind of exchange can be discussed with a transplant coordinator.

Whose decision is it to donate?

The decision to donate an organ is serious and personal. Only you can make the decision after weighing the risks and benefits. Potential donors must voluntarily contact a transplant center and ask to speak with a donor coordinator about donation.

How is a donor evaluation conducted?

A team of medical specialists is dedicated to expertly screen people who are interested in donating a kidney. Donors are given detailed information so they can take the time to carefully consider what is involved. The donation experience is completely confidential and separate from the recipient’s experience. As a donor, you will have your own transplant coordinator. The recipient has a different coordinator. As a donor, you must be physically and psychologically healthy to assure you can safely donate. You must feel comfortable with your decision. If at any time you change your mind, the team will help you make a confidential withdrawal from the procedure.

What is surgery like for donating a kidney?

Most often at Tampa General Hospital, a kidney is removed using minimally invasive surgery, called laparoscopic surgery. During this type of surgery, the surgeon uses tiny incisions and a telescopic viewing device, instead of a large open incision.