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Donate Organs While Alive

You can donate some organs and tissues while you’re alive.

Most living donations happen between family members or close friends. Other people choose to donate to someone they don’t know.

How common are living donations?

Nearly 6,000 living donations take place each year. That’s about four out of every 10 donations.

You may be able to donate:

  • One of your kidneys
    A kidney is the most common donation. Your remaining kidney removes waste from the body.
  • One liver lobe.
    Cells in the remaining lobe grow or refresh until your liver is almost its original size. This happens in a short amount of time for both you and the receiving patient.
  • A lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestines.
    These organs don’t regrow. Both the portion you donate and the portion that remains function fully.

You may be able to donate:

  • Skin—after surgeries such as a tummy tuck.
  • Bone—after knee and hip replacements.
  • Healthy cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood.
  • Amnion —donated after childbirth.
  • Blood—white and red blood cells—and platelets.

You can donate blood or bone marrow more than once. They regrow and the body replaces them after you donate.

Doctors at a transplant center check you over. They need to be sure you’re a good living donor.

They don’t want you to suffer any negative physical, or emotional outcome.

Your body should be in good health. You also shouldn’t have diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or heart disease, now or in the past.

What should I think about before I donate?

It’s great to save another person. Be sure to weight that against the risks.

  • Health risks come with any major surgery
  • Consider the costs.
    • A small number of patients have had problems keeping insurance coverage at the same level and rate.
    • You may have medical problems that delay your return to work.
  • Complications and death are a small risk.

The federal government doesn’t encourage anyone to be a living donor. We don’t know what your short- or long-term effects could be.

Transplant centers follow-up with living donors. On average, living donors do well over the long term.
There are questions about how stress affects the remaining organ. There could be slight medical problems that don’t develop until many years after you donate. We don’t know the effects at this time.

Right now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is collecting information from living donors. They want to see how they do over time.

The National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) provides financial help.

They may be able to help you with:

  • travel, lodging, meals and extras;
  • lost wages, and;
  • childcare and eldercare costs related to your evaluation, surgery, and follow-up visits.

We manage this program through a cooperative agreement with the University of Kansas, School of Medicine.

Call the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) toll-free at 888-TXINFO1 (888-894-6361). Visit their site on Living Donation.

UNOS manages the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).

What organ donation research do you support?

We support many research projects that focus on the decision to say yes to organ donation.

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