Living Organ Donation and Paired Donor Kidney Exchange

Living Donors Fill Gap in Organ Donation

Currently, more than 123,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants in the United States. For specific numbers visit unos.org. The good news is that the pool of organ donors doesn’t only include the deceased. In recent years, the number of living donors has increased across the country. The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. Parts of other organs — including the lung, liver, and pancreas — are also transplantable. The kidney and pancreas transplant program at Methodist Dallas Medical Center has had a living donor program since 1982 and has seen almost 300 living donor procedures.

Donating a KidneyLiving Donors Fill Gap in Organ Donation

Almost 300 living donor laparoscopic nephrectomies (kidney donation surgeries) have been performed at The Transplant Institute at Methodist Dallas. The Transplant Institute at Methodist Dallas was the first program in Texas to perform a successful laparoscopic donor nephrectomy.

Kidney donation information

  • After donating a kidney, a person can live a long and healthy life
  • The remaining kidney will grow to take over the work of both kidneys
  • Blood relatives make the best living donors because their blood and tissue is similar to the recipients
  • Most organ donors today are not blood relatives
  • Generally, the kidney recipient’s insurance will pay for the cost of this procedure

Donating a kidney to a loved one is a sacrifice and a gift at the same time. If you would like a videotape or more information about living kidney donation, paired donor kidney exchange, or other issues regarding organ donation, call our office at 214-947-1800 or 1-800-284-2185.

If you or someone you know would like to be an organ donor, contact The Transplant Institute at Methodist Dallas to discuss this option.

Watch the Agee family's story of paired donor kidney exchange:

Living kidney donor requirements

  • Must be in very good health
  • Must have two normal kidneys
  • Must complete donor health history, physical exam, and testing
  • Generally cannot have any medical conditions or significant risk factors that would make donating a kidney unwise
  • Expenses for time off from work, childcare, transportation, or lodging are generally not paid by insurance

There are risks to being a living kidney donor just as there are risks for any surgery. The donor will undergo a rigorous and complete medical evaluation to ensure donating a kidney would be safe. Education is provided and all questions are answered. The surgery is scheduled at the donor’s convenience and generally the donor can return to work in two to four weeks.

Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy — an easier way to donate a kidney

Thanks to laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, donating a kidney is easier and faster to recover from, than ever. This technique was created in 1998 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and the University of Maryland. In 1999, Dr. Richard Dickerman an independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center performed the first successful living donor laparoscopic nephrectomy in Texas.

How does kidney donation work?
To get to the kidney, surgeons create four tiny “ports,” or puncture wounds in the abdomen. Typically, these ports are made near the belly button, to the left of the belly button and in the upper abdomen. The surgeons use thin instruments inserted through these ports to retrieve the donor’s kidney and close off blood vessels in the abdomen.

Why is this better for the donor?
This procedure takes about an hour longer than the traditional process, but it causes less pain and allows for a faster recovery. Donors can usually go home in two days and return to work in two to four weeks. With older methods, donors had to stay in the hospital for five to seven days and often missed work for six to eight weeks.

Are more people willing to donate due to this process?
Many kidney transplant centers have seen increases in living donors since introducing this procedure. In 2003 living donation surpassed deceased donor organ transplant for the first time in the history of transplantation. This phenomenon is due to the success of laparoscopic donor nephrectomy.