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How Do I Donate a Kidney?

National Kidney Registry

If you are reading this, you may be considering becoming a living kidney donor. Thank you! Just by looking into it, you’re already doing so much more than many others would do.

There are so many people in need of a transplant, and so few people who become living donors: More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are on the waitlist for a donor kidney, and only around 6,000 people become living kidney donors every year.

Becoming a living kidney donor can have a profound impact on someone’s life while having no negative impact on the donor’s life in most cases.

If you’re considering becoming a living kidney donor, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Register as a Donor: To ensure you have the most comprehensive financial assistance and other types of support, and to choose from the top transplant centers in the country, register as a donor with the National Kidney Registry (NKR). After providing your name, phone number, and email, you’ll receive an email with a link to a medical screening questionnaire to start the process.
  2. Choose a Transplant Center: As part of your registration with the NKR, you can choose the transplant center you’d like to work with. To see a comparison of all transplant centers in the U.S., visit www.kidneytransplantcenters.org. Once you have selected a center, the transplant team from that center will reach out to you and guide you through the evaluation process.
  3. Undergo Medical Evaluation & Testing: You’ll receive a thorough medical evaluation to ensure you are a suitable candidate for kidney donation. This includes blood tests, urine tests, imaging, and consultations with medical professionals to make sure you’re fully informed about the process and have all the resources you need. You may also be asked to undergo routine wellness screenings, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy.
  4. Donation Surgery: If you are approved as a donor, you will work with your transplant center to select a surgery date. On the chosen date, you will undergo kidney removal surgery (nephrectomy). The surgery usually takes about two to three hours. You will be under general anesthesia and will be asleep for the entire procedure. Learn more about kidney donation surgery.
  5. Recovery: The recovery period from kidney donation surgery is typically short. You should be out of the hospital within a couple days, and most donors resume normal activities within a few weeks. The human body can function well with just one kidney, and donors can lead healthy, normal lives. Learn more about recovering after kidney donation surgery.

Things you don’t need to worry about when considering kidney donation:

Don’t worry about whether you will qualify as a kidney donor: The screening process is incredibly comprehensive and will review every aspect of your medical background and current health to ensure that donating a kidney will not have any negative health repercussions for you.

Don’t worry that registering as a kidney donor commits you to going through with it: You can change your mind at any time, and the NKR offers a wide range of support in case you have questions or concerns.

Don’t worry about lost wages or travel expenses related to kidney donation: You may have to take time off work for the donation surgery and recovery, and you may incur expenses such as transportation, lodging, meals, and care for children or dependent adults. If you donate through the NKR, you are fully covered by Donor Shield, a comprehensive suite of support and protections that reimburses up to $18,000 in lost wages and other donation-related costs.

Don’t worry about whether you are a medical match with your intended recipient: If you want to donate to someone specific, the NKR’s Standard Voucher Program lets you donate according to your schedule while providing a voucher for someone in imminent need of a transplant. When the intended recipient is ready for their transplant, they can redeem the voucher to receive a transplant from a well-matched living kidney donor. Learn more about donating a kidney through the Standard Voucher Program.

Don’t worry about needing a transplant yourself in the future. Donor Shield offers kidney prioritization to covered donors in the unlikely event they ever need a transplant in the future. Kidney prioritization is available through NKR’s Voucher Program, NKR swaps, NKR internal direct donations, remote direct donations, and Kidney for Life direct donations. Learn more about kidney prioritization.

Ready to take the next step? Register as a living kidney donor now.