Live kidney donation is when you give one of your healthy kidneys to a person whose kidneys don’t work. People whose kidneys don’t work need dialysis (a treatment that cleans their blood) or a kidney transplant to stay alive. Live kidney donation can give them a better and usually longer life.
The person who gives the kidney is called the donor. The person who receives the kidney is called the recipient. If you donate a kidney, you will need to have an operation.
Why is live kidney donation better than dialysis?
Live kidney donation is a better treatment option than dialysis for most people with kidney disease. If dialysis is done well, it can be very effective in treating kidney disease. However, a live kidney transplant will give the recipient a much more independent, active and usually longer life.
The best time for a person with kidney disease to get a live kidney transplant is just before they start dialysis. This is called a pre-emptive transplant.
On average, people only live for 4–5 years after they start dialysis, although some people can live for much longer.
Who can I donate to?
You can donate a kidney to a member of your family, a friend or a person you don’t know. Donating to someone you know, like a family member or a friend, is called directed donation. This is because you ‘direct’ that your kidney goes to a particular recipient.
Donating to someone you don’t know is called altruistic or non-directed donation. In this case, you cannot say who receives your kidney. The kidney will be given to the next best-matched patient on the kidney organ waiting list.