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How Long Does it Take to Donate A Kidney

Colleen Gielda-Smith, Living Donor Patient Navigator, Penn Center for Living Donation

When you are looking for a living kidney donor, you may be wondering how long the kidney donation process takes from start to finish. Having this information can not only help you prepare but also give you important information to share with potential donors.

How long a kidney donation takes depends on a number of factors, including the testing schedule of the transplant center, the kidney matching process, the donor’s schedules, and more. Here’s what you need to know about the timeline for living kidney donation.

Pre-Donation Evaluation

When someone is interested in donating a kidney, the first step is to register as a donor. If the recipient has a microsite, donor candidates can easily register through the recipient’s microsite. Donors can also register directly through the National Kidney Registry and link their registration to their intended recipient.

After completing a comprehensive medical screening and history, potential donors will select a transplant center where they will have a series of medical tests, including blood work, urine tests, and other tests to ensure they are in good health and medically qualified for the donation process.

Donors are also required to undergo routine cancer screenings, such as a colonoscopy and mammogram, so if they do not have a current screening on file, they may need extra time to schedule and complete these tests. In general, it should take between one and four months to be cleared for donation.

Kidney Matching

Once the medical evaluations are complete, the donor’s biological information is compared to the recipient’s to ensure compatibility. This matching process is critical for a successful transplant.

If a match is confirmed, the donor may be approved to donate directly to the recipient. If the match is not optimal, the donor and recipient may use the NKR’s Voucher Program to obtain a better match.

The matching and approval process can take several weeks to a few months, depending on factors such as donor availability, compatibility, and administrative planning. Most patients who participate in the Voucher Program are matched within 90 days.

Donation Surgery & Recovery

Kidney donation surgery, or nephrectomy, is usually performed laparoscopically, which minimizes recovery time and reduces the risk of complications. The surgery itself typically takes a few hours. Once the surgery is complete, the donor spends one to two days in the hospital followed by recovering at home for two to six weeks.

The process of becoming a living kidney donor can take six months or longer, but the time it takes ranges widely depending on a number of factors. If you have specific questions about how long it takes to donate a kidney, consult your transplant team.