Living Donor Kidney Program

Emory Transplant Center has a well-established living donor kidney transplant program. To date, we have performed more than 1,300 living donor kidney transplants. We encourage living donation because of the excellent outcomes and the shorter wait times for patients to receive a kidney.

Emory Transplant Center also offers a paired exchange program to donor and recipient pairs who do not match. We work with the National Kidney Registry to locate matching kidneys and exchange with other recipients who have donors who do not match with them.

Why Kidney Living Donation

With today’s medical advances, a living or a deceased person can donate a kidney. While people typically have two kidneys, only one is required for a normal, healthy life. The generous act of donating a kidney can be an incredible and rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Emory encourages living donor transplants for the following reasons:

  • While most kidneys from deceased donors function well, a kidney from a living donor provides the greatest chance for long-term success.
  • Because patients who receive a kidney from a living donor do not need to wait for a kidney from a deceased organ donor, they can undergo transplantation earlier. Early transplantation improves the survival of the transplanted kidney.
  • Kidneys from living donors have an excellent chance of immediately regaining function after transplantation.

How to Become a Kidney Donor

The following information is provided to help you understand how to become a kidney donor. This process is divided into four phases.

Donor Registration

If you would like to become a living kidney donor, the first step in the process is to register as a potential kidney donor. Click on the link below and follow the prompts to begin registration.

You will be asked for your name, date of birth, address, telephone number and social security number. You will also be required to complete a medical screening questionnaire. In addition, you will be asked the name of your intended recipient and his/her date of birth* (required). If you do not have an intended recipient, it will be an option to select during the registration.

Screening Questionnaire/Interview

Once you are registered, you will receive a living donor questionnaire that you may complete at your convenience. The transplant coordinator will review your questionnaire and contact you within 2-3 weeks. At this time, additional questions will be asked, information verified and education provided about the donor process. If there are no obvious barriers to donation, and with your permission, screening tests may be ordered at this time.

Screening/Blood Testing

Screening tests include a 24 hour urine collection, tests for kidney function and diabetes, and your blood type will be identified to see if you are able to donate directly to your intended recipient.

If a donor lives out of state and does not wish to initially come to Emory, we will arrange blood work and pre-evaluation testing to be completed at a remote lab location.




A or O


B or O


A, B, AB, or O



With the blood type identification test, a second test must be performed called the crossmatch. This test determines if your recipient may have antibodies or sensitivities to you. If the crossmatch test result is positive, this signifies the recipient has the ability to attack the donor's cells and the transplanted kidney. Therefore the donor would not be able to donate to their recipient. However, a negative crossmatch result signifies the recipient does not have antibodies against the donor's kidney and he/she could be a potential donor.

This test takes approximately 4-6 weeks for the results to be completed. Your screening blood and 24 hour urine tests will be completed before the crossmatch results are available. Your coordinator will present your test results at the Living Donor Patient Conference. After the conference, a coordinator will notify you of the result.

Many times multiple donors come forward for the same recipient have blood testing performed for one recipient. Emory’s policy provides for the screening of up to 10 potential donors per recipient at a time. If a suitable donor is not found in the first group of 10, we will continue screening patients in the order they registered.

It is against federal law to release information to the recipient about who or how many donors were tested. Donation is a confidential process; it is against federal law to share personal health information (PHI). Your transplant coordinator cannot share any information about your process with your intended recipient or any other individual who may ask. The Emory transplant team will evaluate each potential donor very carefully.

Donor Evaluation

After taking all factors into consideration, only one donor at a time will be scheduled for the medical evaluation appointment.During this visit, we provide donation education and perform a thorough medical and psychological evaluation to determine donor suitability. The potential donor will meet the members of the transplant team, which include the transplant surgeon, transplant nephrologist, transplant coordinator, financial coordinator and social worker.To determine the health status of the potential donor, the following medical tests are performed:

  • Medical history and physical examination
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • A CT angiogram with contrast
  • Pap smear
  • Mammogram age 40 and over
  • For donors age 50 and older, also includes a 2D echocardiogram, cardiac stress test and colonoscopy

The donor is asked to provide the results of their testing to their local physician. The actual evaluation must be done at the Emory Transplant Center in Atlanta.

Kidney Donation Surgery

Since 1999, virtually all donor nephrectomies performed at Emory Transplant Center have been done using the laparoscopic technique. The laparoscopic technique offers the donor a more rapid and less uncomfortable recovery while providing the recipient a kidney that functions the same as a kidney removed through the much larger incision used for the open technique.

Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure which allows the kidney to be removed through four small incisions. The operation takes approximately three to four hours and, as with all surgery, it involves risks. Any operation carries the risk of anesthesia complications, bleeding, blood clots or infection. Occasionally, a difficulty may arise which cannot be safely managed laparoscopically. In this situation, the surgeon will convert to a conventional open procedure.

After the donated kidney is removed, it is prepared for transplant into the recipient. Donors spend approximately two hours in a recovery area before returning to their hospital room.

Typically, the donor hospital stay is two to three days after surgery. Donors are instructed they need to stay within the greater Atlanta area until their post-op appointment is completed. This is scheduled 7-14 days after surgery.

Recovery and return to work takes approximately four-six weeks. Donors are instructed not to lift anything over 10 pounds for approximately 4-6 weeks following surgery.

Resources for Kidney Donors

  • Georgia Transplant Foundation: a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and resources to help both kidney recipients and living donors.
  • National Living Donor Assistance Program: the goal of the Living Donor Assistance Program is to help living donors deal with financial hardships created as a result of their donation.
  • National Kidney Registry: Emory is one of over eighty member transplant centers in the National Kidney Registry (NKR). We enroll incompatible pairs (donor and recipient), compatible pairs (may match but have a wide age range) and non-designated donors who would like to start a chain and facilitate a number of people being transplanted. The NKR organizes swaps or chains that may have pairs included from both sides of the United States. Each donor is operated on at his/her transplant center, only the kidney travels.

How Can We Help You Today?

Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 855-366-7989. We look forward to hearing from you.