A living donor is a volunteer who is physically healthy. Donors can be family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or fellow church members of the recipient— anyone who is willing to donate. Donors do not have to be the same race or sex as the recipient. Some additional questions people commonly have about their eligibility as a kidney donor:
Read on to find the answers to these questions and more.
The purpose of the donor evaluation is to make sure that the donor’s health will not be harmed from donating and that the transplant has the greatest chance of success. The donor evaluation can take from one to 6 months to complete, depending on the health of the donor and how quickly the tests can be scheduled. To begin the donor evaluation, the transplant team compares the blood of the potential donor and recipient to make sure there is a match. Then several tests are done on an outpatient basis, at a time that works best for the donor:
- Doctors check the donor’s blood pressure, heart rate, and lung function and take blood and urine samples.
- Women have a pap smear and mammogram, while donors over 50 years of age need a colonoscopy.
- Donors also talk to a social worker or counselor.
- Closer to donation, donors have a CT scan to help the surgeons see the blood vessels of the kidney.
Common Questions About Donor Eligibility
I’m 70 years old. Am I too old to donate a kidney?
At Barnes-Jewish, we have performed numerous successful transplants with older donors. Like younger donors, you will have a thorough evaluation to make sure that your kidneys are healthy and that donating will not be harmful to you.
Can I be a donor if I smoke? What about if I use drugs or alcohol?
Smokers can be donors, but we ask that you stop smoking for your own safety, even if it means delaying the surgery. By giving up smoking, you decrease the risks of going under anesthesia and of complications after the operation. If you do not quit smoking, the surgeons and physicians will decide if it is safe for you to donate, based on how much you smoke and the condition of your lungs. Of course, you won’t be able to smoke for the time you are in the hospital.
Can I be a donor if I am overweight?
The medical team will evaluate your body mass index to determine your eligibility. They will also look specifically at the area where they plan to make the incision to see if your weight will make the surgery or recovery more complicated. If you are otherwise a suitable donor, transplant surgery can be delayed until you can lose weight.
For additional information or to begin a kidney transplant evaluation, call