Live Donation of Kidney or Part of the Liver

Living donations are treated a bit differently. While family and friends can be a donor for someone in need, you can also be an anonymous donor as well. In fact, living donors made over 6,500 transplants possible last year alone!

To be considered a living donor you must be:

  • In good physical and mental health
  • Over 18 years old

Having a health condition can cause harm to the recipient so it is important that you be completely honest about your health history. You will be subject to a full medical and psychological evaluation and be informed of all the risks that can come from organ donation.


What are the most common living donations?

Kidneys are the most common donated organ. Other organs that can be donated can include the uterus, and portions of the liver, lung, intestine, and pancreas.

Organs can be donated in a few ways.

  • The directed donation is where the donated organ is going to a specific individual. The donor is usually a friend, relative, or good samaritan who heard about the person’s need for an organ.
  • Non-directed donation where the donor does not know the name of the recipient, only that they were medically compatible for a transplant. Oftentimes, donor and recipient never meet unless otherwise specified.
  • The paired donation is when a candidate has someone in mind to donate (typically a kidney), but they are not medically a match. The donor can still donate their kidney to someone who is considered a match and the recipient can be matched with a better donor.

In the United States, living organ donation is a process in which a healthy individual donates an organ or part of an organ, such as a kidney or a portion of their liver, to someone in need of a transplant and are on the waiting list. In most instances these are relatives or friends of the patient needing a transplant, however more recently, it is possible to donate to someone unknown too. Altruistic donation to someone unknown can help save lives and is encouraged.  

Here’s an overview of how the living donor process typically works in the US –


Initial Screening: Anyone interested in becoming a living donor must first contact a transplant center to begin the evaluation process.  The transplant center will provide information about the donation process and schedule an initial screening to determine if the individual is a potential donor.


Medical Evaluation: The medical evaluation is an extensive process that includes a physical exam, blood and urine tests, imaging tests, and consultations with various medical professionals, such as a transplant surgeon, nephrologist, and psychologist. The purpose of the medical evaluation is to ensure that the potential donor is in good health and has no medical conditions that could pose a risk to their own health or the health of the recipient.


Matching of Donor and Recipient: If the potential donor is deemed medically suitable and fit, the transplant center will begin the process of matching them with a recipient. The matching process takes into account several factors, including blood type, tissue type, and medical urgency.


Preparation Prior to Surgery : Once a suitable donor-recipient match is identified, both the donor and recipient will undergo further testing and preparation for the surgery. The donor will receive education and counseling to help them prepare for the donation, while the recipient will undergo additional medical testing and evaluation.


Surgery: The surgery for Kidney donation and sometimes for liver is typically performed laparoscopically, meaning that the surgeon makes several small incisions rather than a large one. The donor will be placed under general anesthesia, and the surgeon will remove the donated organ or portion of an organ. The recipient will receive the donated organ or portion of an organ in a separate operating room. Liver donation most frequently will require an open surgery and there would be a visible scar in the upper abdomen area.  


Recovery: Following the surgery, both the donor and recipient will be closely monitored and cared for in the hospital. The length of hospital stay will vary depending on the type of organ donated and the individual’s overall health. Donors typically require 2-4 weeks of recovery time before returning to normal activities.

Overall, the living donor process is a highly regulated and carefully managed process designed to ensure the safety and well-being of both the donor and recipient. Living donation is a selfless act that can save the life of someone in need of a transplant.