Why Donors are Needed

Kidney donors save lives! 

The kidney is the most transplanted organ and also the most needed. More than 90,000 people are currently on the U.S. waiting list for a kidney transplant. That includes more than 7,000 people in New York State.

In 2020, there were 17,583 transplants with kidneys from deceased donors and 5,234 transplants of kidneys from living donors. Unfortunately, many more kidneys are needed than are available. 

The average wait for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor is between three and five years, and some people in need may wait even longer.  Many people pass away from kidney disease or related health problems before a transplant becomes available. 


Living Kidney Donation

Most people are born with two kidneys. People in good health may be able to donate a kidney to someone in need. 

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) states:

Living donors should be in good overall physical and mental health and older than 18 years of age.

Medical conditions such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, certain infections, or an uncontrolled psychiatric condition, could prevent you from being a living donor.

Since some donor health conditions could harm a transplant recipient, it is important that you share all information about your physical and mental health. You must be fully informed of the known risks involved with donating and complete a full medical and psychosocial evaluation. Your decision to donate should be completely voluntary and free of pressure or guilt.


Types of Living Kidney Donation

Directed Donation

Directed donation is when a living donor chooses which person will receive the donated kidney. The recipient may be a family member, a friend, neighbor, coworker or someone else who the donor learned was in need. This is the most common type of living kidney donation.   

Paired Donation

Also called a kidney exchange or "kidney swap," paired donation is a process for matching up an incompatible donor and recipient with others in the same situation. 

UNOS explains:

Sometimes a transplant candidate has someone who wants to donate a kidney to them, but tests reveal that the kidney would not be a good medical match. Kidney paired donation, or KPD, also called kidney exchange, gives that transplant candidate another option. In KPD, living donor kidneys are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant.

Paired donations may involve donors and recipients at different transplant centers. 

Non-Directed Donation

A non-directed donation is when a person decides to become a kidney donor but does not select a specific recipient. Instead, the donor offers to help a stranger in need. The match is made based on compatibility. 


Additional Resources

The United Network for Organ Sharing has a helpful guide with information about the steps to living donation, as well as a living donation page at transplantliving.org/living-donation/. Information about paired donation is at https://unos.org/transplant/kidney-paired-donation/

ECMC's Regional Center of Excellence for Transplantation and Kidney Care is the transplant center serving Western New York. For information on living kidney donation through ECMC, visit its Living Donor Information page.

The Living Kidney Donors Network (LKDN) also offers an overview of living kidney donation

The Kidney Connection provides an online space for people seeking living kidney donors to share their stories. The site is https://kidneyconnection.org/