Please note that we are seeing high patient volumes in the emergency department. Learn more >>.

Know before you go to the ER
Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web

Living Kidney Donor Evaluation Process

Deciding to donate one of your kidneys to someone in need is a selfless and powerful choice. If you want to begin the donation process, our expert living kidney donor team can help you determine if you are a good candidate. 

At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our living kidney donor program offers an innovative approach to donor matching and excellent kidney transplant success rates. Our specialists walk potential donors through a comprehensive evaluation to ensure they are physically and mentally fit to undergo surgery. 

Kidney Donor Evaluation: What to Expect

The purpose of the kidney donor evaluation is to make sure the donation process will not harm your health in any way. Our comprehensive protocols also ensure every kidney transplant has the greatest chance of success. 

An independent expert doctor (a nephrologist in our institution) oversees all donor medical testing and evaluations to ensure donor safety. The donor evaluation can take from one to six months to complete. This testing includes:

  • Donor matching: To begin the evaluation, our transplant team matches the blood of the potential donor to a recipient. Using multiple innovative approaches, we explore every opportunity and resource to match all kidney donors with a suitable transplant recipient. Learn more about kidney donor matching.
  • Medical testing: Next, we conduct several outpatient tests to evaluate a donor’s overall health. These tests ensure a donor is fit enough for surgery and has no medical conditions that kidney donation could complicate down the road. Physical tests include:
    • Blood pressure, heart rate and lung function testing
    • Blood and urine samples
    • Pap smear and mammogram, for women
    • Colonoscopy, for donors over age 50
    • CT imaging, to help surgeons see the kidneys’ blood vessels
  • Counseling and caregiver support: Donors also talk to a social worker or counselor, who explains the risks and benefits of kidney donation in great detail. This process ensures donors thoroughly understand their situation and don’t feel outside pressure to donate a kidney. Our team also asks about family or caregiver support to make sure donors have the care they need after surgery. Throughout every stage of the living donor process, our living donors have an independent living donor advocate who assists through the process and advocates for you. Learn more about kidney donation surgery.

Common Questions About Living Kidney Donor Eligibility

Donors can be family members, friends, neighbors or coworkers of the recipient – or even complete strangers. Almost anyone who is physically healthy can donate a kidney if they wish. Due to advances in science, and our focus on innovation, our kidney transplant experts have more donor matching options than ever before.

Questions people commonly ask about living kidney donor eligibility include:

  • Who can donate a kidney? Our surgeons have performed successful transplants with donors of all kinds. You don’t have to be the same race, sex or age as the transplant recipient. Sometimes we can even match people of different blood types. All donors undergo a thorough evaluation to make sure their kidneys are healthy and that donating will not be harmful to them.
  • Can I be a donor if I smoke? People who smoke 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 post-surgery complications. If you do not quit smoking, the surgeons and physicians will decide if it is safe for you to donate. If you’re ready to quit smoking, we can provide resources to help.
  • Can I be a donor if I am overweight? Our medical team will evaluate your body mass index (BMI) to determine your eligibility. If our experts are confident your weight will not make the surgery or recovery more complicated, you will be eligible to donate a kidney. If your weight is the only obstacle to becoming a donor, we can also postpone transplant surgery until you reach a healthy weight. Many donors have used this as a motivation to lose excess weight and lead a healthy life. We have dieticians who are trained to assist with reaching weight loss goals. 

Contact Us

For more information about the living donor kidney program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.