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Living Kidney Donation

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UC San Diego Health kidney transplant experts explain the advantages of live donation.

The transplant team at UC San Diego Health are skilled in the complex care of living donors. Our interdisciplinary team includes dedicated living donor specialists who provide medical, surgical and psychological support for potential donors. 

The Benefits of Living Kidney Donation

In California, kidney transplant candidates sometimes wait up to 10 years for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. Living donation is an extraordinary, life-saving option that helps eliminate the risks of waiting.

Become A Living Donor

Start the process of becoming a living kidney donor by completing this brief health questionnaire.

Other benefits:

  • Kidneys from living donors last longer than kidneys from deceased donors resulting in a significant increase in long-term survival for recipients.
  • Recipients of living donors receive transplants before they start on dialysis or earlier into the start of dialysis treatment, which increases their life span.
  • Surgery can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for both the recipient and the donor.

Paired Kidney Exchange

As part of the National Kidney Registry's Paired Exchange Program, we have the unique ability to perform a special form of living kidney donor transplantation known as paired kidney exchange. This program allows donors who are not blood- or tissue-compatible with their recipient to "exchange" their kidney with a donor who is compatible. 

Kidney Voucher Program

This program allows donors to donate their kidney many years before their intended recipient may need one.

UC San Diego Health is the first San Diego transplant program to implement the voucher program, started in 2014. About 20 percent of transplant centers in the nation participate in the program, which is offered through the National Kidney Registry

Living Donor Surgery

Explore Transplant

Learn more about living kidney transplant from patients and professionals at Explore Transplant.

​​​The donor operation is done through small incisions with the aid of a camera, which is called laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery. At UC San Diego Health we offer cutting-edge surgical technology, and often use a Da Vinci robot to aid in the operation. Small-incision surgery is less painful, requires a shorter hospital stay and leads to a faster recovery. Following donation, care is provided by our transplant team and your personal physician.

Thinking of Becoming a Living Kidney Donor?

As you consider becoming a living kidney donor, our highest priority is to protect your health, safety, privacy, and best interests. Donating an organ is a major decision. It is important to be completely honest with the transplant team about your fears and concerns. You should never feel pressured to become a donor. Organ donation is completely voluntary and you have the right to stop or delay the process at any time.

Our living donor specialists are experienced in the field of transplantation and can help address your concerns and provide objective advice so that you can make an informed choice that is right for you. 

Living donors may be close friends, acquaintances, blood relatives, or even altruistic donors (donors who do not know the recipient) who:

  • Are blood type and immunologically compatible
  • Older than 18 years of age
  • Have normal function of the organ they are donating
  • Are in excellent health 

In order for our team to determine if you are a candidate for living kidney donation, please complete an online health history questionnaire.

Donation Expenses

Costs for hospitalization, diagnostic tests, evaluation and living donor surgery are usually paid for by the transplant recipient's insurance. However, travel and living expenses and time away from work are often not covered. Our financial coordinators can help you navigate all of the costs involved and how it may impact you.

International Living Kidney Donation

Our team can help coordinate living kidney donation with potential donors who reside outside of the U.S. and wish to donate to a U.S. citizen. In order to determine candidacy, the potential donor will need to:

  • Fill out an online application
  • Submit blood samples (we will mail a kit with instructions)
  • Undergo an in-person medical evaluation (if blood sample is a match)

We will send a letter to the donor to be used to obtain a temporary visa. The letter confirms compatibility, the identified recipient, confirmation that our transplant center is performing the surgery and that all transplant costs and hospital stay is covered under the relevant health insurance. To start the process for international donation or for more information, call 858-657-7729.

​Appointments and Referrals

Center For Transplantation Locations

La Jolla

Meet Our Specialists

Team Photo Our living kidney transplant team includes specialists in all areas of patient care, including surgeons, nephrologists, infectious disease specialists, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers, dieticians, a live kidney donor coordinator, and physical and occupational therapists.

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