Living Donor Eligibility

Betsy Blair, Psy.D. discusses how to ask someone to be a living kidney donor.

What are the requirements to become a living donor?

Generally, donors should be between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. You should not have any major medical or psychiatric illness and you must not be pregnant. If you smoke, you must quit for six weeks prior to surgery. You also must understand the risks of this surgery and comply with instructions for follow-up medical care.

Medical conditions that may prevent a living donation include uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, acute infections, or a psychiatric condition requiring treatment. Since some donor health conditions could harm a transplant recipient, it is important that you share all information about your physical and mental health.

Do I need to be related to the recipient?

No, it’s not necessary to be related to the recipient. Donors often are friends, colleagues, or may not even be aquainted with the recipient. 

Will the recipient be removed from the cadaver kidney waiting list while I'm evaluated?

No changes are made to the recipient’s status on the waiting list while the potential donor is being evaluated.

What are the first steps of the evaluation?

If you are considering living kidney donation, please contact Aurora St. Luke’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Coordinator at 414-646-0584. We will conduct a brief health screening over the phone, answer any questions you have and send you a medical questionnaire to complete and return. We will also ask you to confirm your blood type.

The questionnaire will identify any medical problems that could influence the decision to proceed with further testing. Please take your time to complete the questionnaire to ensure accuracy. Some questions, such as family history, may require the help of other family members. Other questions, such as smoking, alcohol or drug history, can be sensitive.

Please be truthful. Hiding information may be dangerous to the donor and the recipient. The questionnaire is confidential. Only the health professionals on the transplant team will use this information. It will not be shared with the recipient or others.

What else does the evaluation involve?

We will need blood and urine test results, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). If these tests suggest that you could be a donor, a CAT scan will be performed to ensure you have two healthy kidneys.

Other tests may be necessary.

The purpose of the evaluation is to make sure your kidneys are normal and that you don’t have any medical or psychiatric illness that would make this procedure risky or difficult. We want to make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that could be transmitted to the recipient and to confirm that you’re donating voluntarily, without pressure.

The work-up involves a full medical history and physical including cardiovascular and cancer screening. None of the tests, procedures or consultations will be scheduled until insurance authorization has been obtained for both the recipient’s transplant surgery and the donor’s work-up and surgery.

Generally, tests are performed at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, but it may be possible to complete some of them at a location near your home, especially if you live a distance from our hospital. Following initial testing, evaluation will require visits to either Aurora St.  Luke’s Medical Center or our satellite office in Green Bay.

Is my evaluation covered by medical insurance?

You will not incur any medical expenses directly related to the evaluation, surgery, hospitalization or immediate post-operative care. These charges are billed to the recipient’s insurance company or assumed by the Transplant Center in the case of a recipient who is a Medicare beneficiary.

For expenses that are non-medical (e.g., lost income during the recovery period after the operation, travel expenses, etc.) the State of Wisconsin passed a bill that works to offset these donor expenses. All donors meet with a financial counselor to discuss pre- and post-surgical expenses. It is helpful for donors to have some type of medical insurance in case any other non-kidney donor related medical issues are identified during the evaluation or surgery.

Is the information provided to the transplant team confidential?

Yes. It is important that you feel completely comfortable disclosing all requested information. Anything discussed in the course of the donor evaluation is between the donor and the transplant team. The transplant team will not share your medical information with the recipient, and if you chose not to donate or are unable to donate, the recipient will not be given specifics regarding your elimination as a candidate for donation.

When will I be told if I can be a donor?

A multidisciplinary transplant team reviews each potential donor and recipient, and determines whether or not the donor is a suitable match and is donating freely and without coercion. All of your medical and psychological evaluation information is carefully considered by this team to assure the best possible outcome. Generally, you will be informed of the team’s decision within a week of the completion of your evaluation.

If I’m approved to be a donor, when will the transplant take place?

This decision is made jointly by the transplant team, you and the recipient. The transplant team – particularly the doctors involved in the recipient's care – will determine the best time for the transplant, based on the recipient’s medical condition. Once we know this, we will ask for your input and try to accommodate your schedule, if possible.

Once the procedure is scheduled, a number of factors could affect the plans. For example, your recipient’s condition might deteriorate so that he or she is too sick for a transplant. Or, the recipient or donor might develop an infection or other condition that must be treated before a transplant.

Can I change my mind?

Yes, at any time before the surgery. A Living Donor Advocate will meet with you to discuss your decision and any reservations you have. The Donor Advocate will be available to you throughout your donation process and you can choose not to donate at any time.