Why donate a kidney?

Patients with end-stage kidney disease have three options for treatment: 1. dialysis, 2. kidney transplant from a deceased donor, or 3. kidney transplant from a living donor.

With dialysis, a machine is used to artificially clean the blood, doing the work of a healthy kidney. It’s time-consuming and exhausting, as frequent as three times a week for up to four hours each session. While a patient can remain on dialysis for many years, it’s not a cure for kidney disease. In fact, ten percent of patients on dialysis die each year while waiting for a kidney transplant. For some groups, such as elderly patients and patients with diabetes, there is an even greater risk of dying.

A kidney transplant is the preferred treatment option for patients with end-stage kidney disease. But the demand for kidneys from deceased donors is greater than the number available – which means patients can wait years for a kidney transplant, often growing weaker while waiting.

The best and fastest option for kidney transplant is to receive a kidney from a living donor.

More information about living kidney donation:

46 year old Mike Robison, living in Arizona, donated a kidney to his brother, Steve living in Columbus, Ohio. Mike talks about his kidney donation experience at Ohio State's Comprehensive Transplant Center and how his life has not changed after kidney donation, explaining that “it was a great process overall.”

Evaluation Process

Living Kidney Donor Evaluation Process

The donor undergoes a medical history review and a complete physical examination. A psychological evaluation may be used to provide information, emotional support and assess motivation.

All prospective living donors meet with our Living Donor Advocate to discuss the candidate’s decision to become a donor. The Living Donor Advocate provides unbiased, confidential support, discusses your willingness to donate and assesses your understanding of informed consent.

Here’s what you can expect during your evaluation process:

  • You will need to provide a copy of your blood type or have blood drawn to confirm blood type ((the Pre-Transplant Office will provide an order for blood draw)
  • 24-hour blood pressure monitoring
  • Female donors will need to provide a copy of their last Pap test result, breast exam and mammogram report. A Release of Information form is included in this packet. Please sign the form
    and forward it to your doctor’s office. If your Pap test or mammogram is more than a year old, you should schedule an appointment for new exams
  • Complete a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) if requested by the Pre-Transplant Office
  • Blood collection for comprehensive tests and screening for communicable disease
  • 24-hour urine collection
  • Chest X-ray and EKG (tests to determine heart and lung health)
  • CT angiogram of kidneys (an X-ray test to evaluate the kidneys and blood vessels)
  • Meet with a transplant coordinator have a psychosocial evaluation, a psychosocial evaluation, receive surgical and medical evaluations, and complete tests
  • Any additional testing as needed
  • Final pre-donation laboratory studies (done seven to 10 days before surgery)

IMPORTANT: You won’t be evaluated for living kidney donation until you’ve watched our 30-minute education video: go.osu.edu/KidneyDonorEducation.

Donation Process

Living Kidney Donation Process

All donation and transplant surgeries are done at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center by our transplant team. If our transplant team clears you as a donor and your recipient has been identified, the surgery will be scheduled within a few weeks.

Paired Kidney Donation

Sometimes, a person may agree to donate a kidney to a recipient, but his or her blood or tissue type does not match their recipient. Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center can help match such a donor/recipient pair with another donor/recipient pair through a process called Kidney Paired Donation (KPD).

For example, if the recipient from one pair is a match with the donor from another pair and vice versa, our Transplant Center can arrange the exchange through two simultaneous transplants. This allows the two recipients to receive organs from two people who were willing to donate, even though the original pairings were incompatible or mismatched.

Both donor and recipient candidates are carefully evaluated and tested medically and psychosocially to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks. It is important for both surgeries to be scheduled for the same time, in case either donor changes their mind at the time of surgery. Though the surgeries take place at the same time, they can occur at different hospitals and even in different time zones.

Paired donation can also involve multiple donors and recipients. In September 2011, Ohio State achieved national recognition with a six-way paired kidney transplant, coordinating the in-house transplantation of six kidneys in a domino-effect surgical process.

Ohio State has an internal paired donation program in addition to working with national donor exchange registries to share information among hospitals to find matches for pairs of donors and recipients who are not matches. These types of paired exchanges will hopefully have a positive impact on the waiting list for kidney transplants.

Your doctor will help you decide if a paired kidney donation is a good solution for your donation. 

In a paired kidney exchange, an incompatible donor/recipient pair is matched with another incompatible donor/recipient pair for a swap. Each donor gives a kidney to the other person's intended recipient.

Patient Success Stories

Mother and son donate kidneys to ailing husband and father, 21 years apart

Transplant surgeon Amer Rajab, MD, PhD, performed both procedures across the decades for ‘blessed’ patient.

Read their amazing story here.

Kidney donation from one brother to another, half a country apart

46 year old Mike Robison, living in Arizona, decided to donate his kidney to his brother, Steve living in Columbus, Ohio. 

Brother donates life saving kidney to brother

Photojournalist Mike Robinson sat down in his very own news studio in Phoenix, Arizona, to share his story about donating a kidney to his brother who suffered from kidney disease. This story aired on FOX 10 in Phoenix on World Kidney Day.

Mark’s once in a lifetime moment to meet his kidney donor for the first time

Behind-the-scenes footage of the first ever meeting between Mark, a kidney recipient from Cincinnati, Ohio and his living donor, Danielle, a speech therapist from Pennsylvania–moved to donate by a billboard of Mark's four kids on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

After Donating a Kidney, Ironman Back to Training 6 Days a Week

Mike is an extreme athlete, participating in Iron Man Triathlon events. Yet even though Mike enjoys pushing himself physically, he took a break from competing to be a non-directed kidney donor.

Couple Share a Life and a Kidney

Megan, born with only one kidney that was not high functioning, received a kidney from her husband Jake in December, 2018 at Ohio State.

Chance encounter at Miami Valley Hospital leads to life-saving gift performed at Ohio State

Mike is an extreme athlete, participating in Iron Man Triathlon events. Yet even though Mike enjoys pushing himself physically, he took a break from competing to be a non-directed kidney donor.

James Received the Best Blessing Ever

Craig discusses his decision to become a living kidney donor - a decision that saved friend James' life and gave him the chance to watch his children grow up.

Donors Discuss Their Surgery Years Later

It's been more than five years since Jackie, Marsheen and Rollie each had their living kidney donation surgery here at Ohio State. All three were asked if they felt as good as they looked. The answer was 'yes'.

Kidney donation chain saves five lives at once

Living kidney donor chains often arise out of situations where a friend or family member wants to donate a kidney, but blood or tissue types don’t match. All but two patients of this 10-person living kidney donation chain were in this same situation. In these instances, the transplant team at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center helped to link incompatible donor/recipient pairs with other mismatched donor/recipient pairs.
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Tips From Our Experts

Living Kidney Donation Best Option for Recipients

Todd Pesavento, MD, Medical Director of kidney transplantation explains why living kidney donation is the best option for kidney recipients and who can be a living kidney donor.

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