What is living kidney donation?

A living donor kidney transplant takes place when a living family member, friend or even a stranger donates one of their kidneys to a recipient.

Living kidney donation takes place when a living person donates to another person. The living donor can be a family member, a friend, someone who doesn’t have a direct relationship with the recipient, or even someone who the recipient doesn’t know at all.

Around 30 out of 100 kidney transplants are from living donors.

Receiving a kidney from a living donor has many advantages over deceased kidney donation:

  • Kidneys from living donors usually last longer (20-25 years on average, as opposed to 15-20 years on average for a deceased donor kidney transplant).
  • There is often less of a wait for transplantation from a living donor. The process usually takes 3-6 months once a potential living donor comes forward, as opposed to 2-3 years on the transplant waiting list. This includes all tests and arranging the operation.
  • Transplanted kidneys from living donors are more likely to start working straight away. This is because the kidney has come from a donor who is fit and well.
  • The risk from the donated kidney is lower, as it is easier to thoroughly check the health of the donor before donation. Also, it is unlikely for the donor to have had a major health issue.

Types of living kidney donation

There are four types of living kidney donation:

Directed donation

This is when a person directly donates a kidney to someone they know, for example a family member or a friend.

Directed altruistic donation

This is when a person offers to donate a kidney to a specific person whom they don’t know. They may have read the recipient’s story online, for example, and wish to donate to them.

Paired/pooled donation

If a donor’s kidney is not a suitable match for the person they wish to donate to, they may be able to join the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme and be eligible for the paired/pooled scheme. This scheme is where two or three donor kidneys are ‘swapped’ with other pairs in a donor run.

Non-directed altruistic donation

Non-directed altruistic donation is when someone donates a kidney to someone they do not know. Altruistic donors start a ‘chain’ in a UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme donor run.

What is a donor run?

A donor run is a scheme run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to find the best combinations of kidney donors and kidney recipients signed up to the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme. The scheme uses an algorithm to find the best matches for people in the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme. The scheme is anonymous, and people do not know who their donor or recipient is.

A donor run can match pairs in two or three-way swaps (paired/pooled donation) or in ‘chains’ of up to three transplants (triggered by a non-directed altruistic donation).

The matching donor run is normally carried out four times a year, in January, April, July and October.

More help and support

Make your Mark is a website for people interested in living kidney donation, created by Give a Kidney and Kidney Research UK.

The website has information, stories, and support if you are are interested in living kidney donation or are thinking of becoming a living donor.

More information about living kidney donation

  • Donating a kidney (living kidney donation)

    Living kidney donation is when a healthy person (donor) chooses to give one of their kidneys to someone who needs it (the recipient).

  • Living with one kidney

    You can live a very normal, healthy life with one kidney instead of two. We explain why some people only have one kidney, what medical care you can expect, what potential problems you should be aware of and how to protect your kidney health.

  • What is paired/pooled kidney donation?

    If you need a kidney transplant and have a living donor, the paired/pooled donation scheme allows you and your donor to “swap” kidneys with another donor-recipient pair so that you both have a higher chance of receiving a successful transplant.