Considerations when preparing to donate an organ

Why would you want to consider living donation?

There are several possible benefits of living donation for both the recipient and the donor:

Better success rates

Transplants from blood-related living donors are often more successful because there is a better tissue match between the donor and the recipient. Both the donation of a living organ and the actual transplant usually happen almost simultaneously with very little loss of vitality to the organ, since it will not be outside the body for long. When the recipient is well-matched to the donor organ, the likelihood of rejection may be substantially reduced

Shorter waiting time

For some transplant candidates, a living donation may be lifesaving as there may be a shorter waiting time for an organ from a living donor, compared to an organ from a deceased donor. For example, typically there may be about a 3- to 5-year wait for a deceased donor kidney

More time to prepare

Planning the transplant may be easier. With a living donation, the transplant can be performed at a time that is convenient for the donor and the recipient, and before the transplant the recipient can begin taking medicines that help lower the risk of rejection

Facts for potential living donors

What are some of the first steps?

In order to be considered as an organ donor, you may undergo medical and psychological tests to help assess whether you are prepared for the task. If you are being considered as a candidate for living donation, some of the things your transplant team may evaluate include:

Matching tests

These tests make sure that your blood and organ will be compatible with the intended recipient. Blood typing, tissue matching, and crossmatching tests will be performed. Blood types must be compatible for a living organ donor.

Compatible Blood Types

Health exams

A number of tests may be run to decide whether you are in good health. These tests may depend on your age, sex, and health status. They may include:


  • Blood tests

  • Kidney function test

  • Imaging scans

  • A urine test

  • Chest X-rays

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG)

Other routine screenings may include:


  • Mammograms
    (for women)

  • Pap smears
    (for women)

  • Colonoscopies

Counseling

As a potential donor, it is important that you understand the transplant process and the potential risks involved. You may also be evaluated for psychological suitability to be a donor

Things to consider

Availability of time and resources

If you are a suitable candidate and make the decision to go ahead and become a living donor, it is likely that you will need to take about 2 weeks off from work if you have a job that is not physically demanding. If your job is physically demanding, you may have to take off approximately 4 to 6 weeks. The length of time needed before returning to work varies from person to person. You may also need to take some time off from work for tests and evaluations that you may need before the transplant. Recovery time may also depend on the type of surgery that is used to remove the donated organ.

If you have any questions or concerns about the time you may need to take off from work, talk to your transplant team, who may be able to help and advise you.

Finances may be an important concern for some donors

It’s suggested that you make financial arrangements to make sure you have adequate funds to cover any unpaid time off from work. This may be especially important if you are not covered by an employer who will help you with the time off. While potential donor testing and evaluations may be covered by insurance, the donor may still be responsible for lost wages from time away from work (which may be covered by sick leave), travel, lodging, and childcare costs.

Consider healthcare coverage

It may be a good idea to check with your health insurer, as many medical plans cover donors’ costs for the transplant or hospitalization. Transplant team members, such as a social worker and a financial coordinator, may also help you to determine whether you have appropriate insurance coverage for the surgery and other expenses. Sometimes the donor’s medical expenses and hospitalization are also covered by the recipient’s insurance plan.

You may want to find out if your short-term disability insurance covers organ donation, or whether your state provides a tax credit for donors. The financial planner/coordinator on your transplant team may be able to help you with this.

3- to 5-year waiting time for a deceased donor kidney according to Kidney Link, www.kidneylink.org/TheWaitingList.aspx, accessed October 7, 2014. Length of time needed off work according to the American Association of Kidney Patients, www.aakp.org/education/resourcelibrary/transplantation-resources/item/what-can-you-expect-after-donating-a-kidney.html, accessed October 7, 2014.