Children's Hospital Colorado

Frequently Asked Questions About Living Donor Kidney Transplants

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What is a pediatric live donor kidney transplant?

Did you know that the kidney is the most commonly donated organ from live organ donors? Due to advancements in medicine, anyone can donate a kidney including a parent or family member (living-related donor), a friend, or even a stranger (living unrelated donor) with a compatible blood type.

Becoming a live organ donor is a big decision with many factors to consider. The most important thing to know is that after organ donation, both the organ donor and recipient live full, healthy lives with one kidney. Learn about applying to become a living donor.

How a child benefits from a live donor kidney transplant

  • A child can receive a transplant before their condition worsens or before he or she needs dialysis
  • Live donor transplants eliminate waiting on UNOS transplant list
  • Live donor organ recipients recover quicker than deceased donor organ recipients

Frequently asked questions from donors about living donor kidney transplants

Who can donate a kidney?

Previously, only a relative could donate an organ to a child. However, this is no longer a requirement. The general criterion to donate a kidney includes:

  • Adults over the age of 18
  • A compatible blood type 
  • Being in good physical and mental health
  • Passing a transplant evaluation

How do I get started?

If you or someone you know is considering becoming a live kidney donor, the first step is to contact Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Kidney Transplant Program. Our transplant coordinators will connect you with the University of Colorado Hospital’s Transplant Center, which is where the adult’s evaluation and donation surgery are performed. This team will put you in contact with an Independent Donor Advocate (IDA).

The IDA is separate from the child’s transplant team. The purpose of an IDA is to make sure that the donor’s well-being is considered separate from the child’s need.

What does the donor evaluation include?

An IDA helps facilitate the donor evaluation at an adult hospital. Doctors will determine if the adult’s kidney is suitable for donation through:

  • A series of tests, such as a blood typing test.
  • A CAT scan.
  • An evaluation by a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and an adult transplant surgeon. 
  • A psychosocial and psychological evaluation to ensure that the donor understands what the commitment is and that the decision is not based on pressure by outside parties.
  • An evaluations with other members of the multidisciplinary living donor team, such as social workers, dietitians, financial coordinators.

What can I expect from the living-donor kidney transplant surgery?

When donating a kidney to a child at Children’s Colorado, the adult donor’s surgery is performed at the University of Colorado Hospital. Both hospitals are located on the Anschutz Medical Campus within walking distance from each other.

The operation is done with a minimally invasive partial laparoscopic technique which lets donors have smaller scars and less pain after surgery. Once the donor’s kidney is removed, it is carefully flushed, packaged and transported to the transplant surgeons performing the child’s surgery.

What is recovery like for the donor?

Once surgery is complete, the donor remains in the hospital for an average of 3 to 5 days. If the donor lives outside the Denver metropolitan area, they may be asked to stay somewhere nearby for approximately one week after the surgery. Depending on their rate of recovery, most donors are able to return to work after 2 to 3 weeks (those with desk jobs may be able to return to work sooner than those with physically demanding jobs).

Most people are able to live long and healthy lives after donating a kidney. The remaining kidney grows bigger and begins to increase its functions in order to make up for the donated kidney. However, donors do have a slightly increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney failure, but this increased risk is low and only affects a small number of people.

How is the donors transplant financed?

All costs related to the donor’s surgery, tests, evaluation and follow-up care are paid for by the child’s insurance; reimbursement for expenses related to travel, lost wages or childcare depend on the donor’s insurance coverage. Talk to the Independent Donor Advocate for more information.

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