How do I know if I qualify as a good donor candidate?

There are many factors that go into donor selection, but here is a list of a few important criteria:

  • Age 25-75—those ages 18-25 will be considered if the donor candidate has a close relationship to the recipient
  • Body mass index of 35 or less
  • No history of major medical conditions—such as heart, lung and liver disease
  • No recent history of cancer—we require 10 years remission, depending on the type of cancer
  • No history of diabetes
  • If the donor candidate has high blood pressure, it must be well-controlled and age is a factor
  • There are certain conditions in a potential donor’s personal or family history that may require further testing to determine whether someone can be a donor (ex. history of kidney stones or family history of polycystic kidney disease)
What if I am not a match with the person I want to donate to?

The main thing we look at when determining if a donor can donate directly to their intended recipient is blood type. There are four blood types—O, A, B and AB. Donor with blood type O are considered the “universal donors” as they can donate to a recipient with any blood type. Recipients with blood type AB are considered the “universal recipients,” as they can receive an organ from a donor with any blood type.

If a recipient has had a previous transplant and/or blood transfusion, they might have developed antibodies—proteins in the blood produced in response to an infection—against the transplanted organ or blood product. All recipients are tested to see if they have antibodies that could react negatively to the donated organ. If they do, the donor candidate is also tested. During the donor evaluation, we will discuss antibodies in more detail.

When determining donor/recipient compatibility, we also consider other elements such as age or size differences. If the donor and recipient are not compatible for any reason, the living donor can still donate their kidney on behalf of their loved one in need through the National Kidney Registry’s (NKR) paired exchange program. In the paired exchange, the donor would donate to a compatible recipient and their loved one would receive a transplant from a compatible living donor as part of a swap. Additional information is provided about the paired exchange during the evaluation process.

Will the information from my evaluation be shared with my recipient?

No, we keep the two teams very separate, especially in the initial stages. The transplant team does not even share the donor’s name with the recipient until near the end of the evaluation process; however, as the donor, you are welcome to share as much or as little information as you would like with your recipient.

A consent form will be signed at your appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital, which will outline the information that might be shared with the recipient. This primarily consists of information about the donated kidney.

Can I be a donor if I live outside of the United States?

Yes, we have had many donors from outside of the United States. We have an information sheet available outlining the additional requirements and factors involved with international donors, provided upon request.

Will the donor process cost a lot of money?

The evaluation testing, appointments and the surgery itself are covered by the recipient’s insurance. Travel and accommodation expenses, as well as costs associated with parking, are not covered; however, we can provide resources that may help with these types of extra expenses.

Will I have medical issues after donation, since I will only have one kidney?

Most donors live perfectly normal, healthy lives after donation!

How long will I be out of work after donation?

We encourage donors to take four–eight weeks off from work. The length of time required will depend on how you feel after donation, as well as what your work entails. Any jobs requiring heavy lifting will require at least eight weeks of recovery.