In the UK today, approximately a third of all kidney transplants come from living donors. More often than not, these donors are close friends or relatives wishing to donate a kidney to someone they know. Alternatively, there are people who come forward expressing an interest in donating a kidney to someone they have never met. Not all people are suitable to donate a kidney, and thorough medical testing is carried out prior to any surgery. If you are able to donate, there are various routes for live kidney donation that are explained below.
If you are blood group compatible and your tissue type is a match with your intended recipient, then you may be eligible for a direct donation. This results in one of the donor’s kidneys being transplanted directly into the recipient.
Kidney sharing scheme:
If you wish to donate but find that you are not a compatible match with your partner, you could be entered into the UK living kidney sharing scheme. This scheme matches you with a recipient that may also have a living donor who is incompatible. If the donor from that pair is compatible with your recipient then this would result in a two way donation. If not, a third pair can be brought into the scheme until every recipient is matched with a corresponding compatible donor. This is known as 3-way exchange/pooled donation.
Non-directed altruistic donation:
It is possible to donate a kidney without having anyone in mind to donate to. These altruistic donors are worked up to give their kidney to an anonymous recipient, much in the same way blood is used when donated. The process involves assessment by a psychological practitioner and by the Human Tissue Authority, as well as full work-ups by a nephrologist and a surgeon. When an altruistic donor has completed their work-up, their kidney could be donated into the paired/pooled scheme. Every altruistic donor is given the option of their kidney being donated into the scheme as it creates a maximum number of transplant opportunities; by entering these ‘altruistic donor chains’, up to three transplants can result from a single donation.
For all of these different routes to living donation, our live donor co-ordinators are available to make sure that the process runs smoothly. For more in depth explanations about living kidney donation, NHS Blood and Transplant have produced a number of leaflets that are free to download. The links to these downloads are below. They have also produced a series of short films which can explain the national process of living kidney donation, and a link to these videos can be found below.
All living kidney donation is governed by the Human Tissue Act 2004.
Please find further information and links below if you are considering coming forward as a potential living kidney donor.
Let's talk about... film series (Transplant TV)
A series of short films about living donor kidney transplantation help to explain living donation through the eyes of living donors, transplant recipients and healthcare professionals.
Could I be a living kidney donor? (Leaflet)
Can I donate a kidney to someone I don't know? (Leaflet)
UK Living kidney sharing sceme - Your questions answered (Leaflet)