Living Donation

More than 100,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. The wait can be long and difficult, but there is another option – living donation. A transplant from a living donor may shorten the recipient’s time waiting and lead to a better outcome.

Who can be a living donor?

Living donors should be in good physical and mental health and over 18. A living donor candidate will go through a full medical and psychosocial evaluation. Some people may not be able to donate because of medical conditions.

The decision to be a living donor should be made freely and not involve any pressure or guilt.

What are the types of living donation?

The kidney is the organ most commonly transplanted from a living donor. In more rare cases, a segment of the liver or lobe of the lung can also be donated.

Directed Donation

  • The donor chooses a specific person to receive the organ.
  • The donor may be a family member, friend, or someone familiar with the recipient’s story.
  • If the donor isn’t a good match for this person, a paired donation may be considered.

Paired Donation

  • Two or more living kidney donors swap recipients to find a good match.
  • Donor A and Recipient A are friends, but tests show they aren’t a good medical match. Donor B and Recipient B are cousins, but their blood types aren’t compatible. Both donors are willing to give to another recipient in exchange for their recipient receiving from someone else.
  • Paired donations often involve multiple donor/recipient pairs.

Non-Directed Donation

  • A donor is willing to give to someone they don’t know.
  • If the donor doesn’t know anyone in need of a transplant, a recipient can be found based on medical compatibility with a patient on the waiting list.

Frequently Asked Questions about Living Donation

What costs are associated with being a living donor?

The recipient’s insurance should cover costs for your testing, surgery, hospital stay, and follow-up care related to your donation. You will be responsible for regular health maintenance, such as annual check-ups and preventive screenings.

If you need to take time off work or travel for the surgery, help may be available. You can find information about financial impacts and resources on the Transplant Living website from UNOS.

What if the recipient I want to donate to is in another state?

Most transplant hospitals should be willing to do preliminary testing in the donor’s location. Donors must travel to the recipient’s hospital for a complete evaluation and surgery. Travel assistance resources can be found on the Transplant Living website.

If I donate a kidney and I later need one, will I get priority on the waiting list?

If a prior living kidney donor later needs a kidney transplant, a national policy states the patient can be given a higher priority on the waiting list.

I need a kidney transplant, but how can I ask someone to be my donor?

Asking someone to consider giving you a kidney can seem overwhelming. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and National Kidney Foundation (NKF) both have resources to help you educate yourself and think about how to talk to others about your need.


The Atrium Health Transplant Center does perform living donor kidney transplants. They also participate in the paired kidney donation program. For more information, call 704-355-6649 or visit Atrium Health’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program page.

Living Donation January 22, 2013