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Is There an Age Limit for Kidney Transplant or Kidney Donation?

Ned Brooks, NKDO Founder, Chairman, and non-directed kidney donor

If you are a potential living kidney donor or transplant recipient, you may be wondering how your age affects your eligibility. Here’s what you need to know about age limits for kidney donors and transplant recipients.

Age Limits for Kidney Donation

When it comes to age limits for living kidney donors, a lot depends on the individual transplant center you donate through. Following are some basic age guidelines for kidney donors.

Minimum age for kidney donation: The minimum age to become a kidney donor is 18, but the age requirements vary widely from center to center. Many centers require the donor to be at least 21 to 25 years old, while some will allow donation to a relative at 21 but require that the donor be 25 years old to donate to a stranger.

In general, if you are at least 18 you should be able to find a transplant center willing to accept you as a donor, provided you are healthy and not disqualified for any other reason, but if you are under 21 you may need to research several centers to find one that will allow you to donate.

Maximum age for kidney donation: There is no maximum age limit to register to become a donor through the National Kidney Registry. A 2011 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that kidney transplants performed using organs from living donors over the age of 70 are safe for both the donors and the recipients. Provided they are healthy, people can become donors into their late 70s, and there have even been several cases of living donors in their 80s, and at least one in their early 90s.

According to the latest data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), which tracks every organ donation and transplant event occurring in the U.S., 2% of all living kidney donors to date have been over 65, while 23% have been between the ages of 50 and 64. Transplant centers are getting better at evaluating older potential donors based on their health rather than solely their age. In 2022, 6% of all living donors were over 65, and 30% were aged 50–64.

However, if you are over 60 or 70, it does tend to be more difficult to be accepted as a donor. In fact, some older donors, like 72-year-old Sander Orent, have had to contact several centers before finding one that would consider an older donor.

If you are an older potential living kidney donor, it’s important to remember that every transplant center has its own policies and guidelines regarding donor age. If you are healthy and willing to become a donor, don’t let being turned down by a transplant center stop you. Once you find a center that agrees to evaluate you as a potential donor, the center’s medical team will perform a comprehensive assessment to determine if you are a suitable candidate for living kidney donation.

Age Limits for Kidney Transplant

The age limit for receiving a kidney transplant can vary depending on several factors, including the policies of the transplant center, the overall health of the individual, and whether the potential benefits of a kidney transplant outweigh any risks related to the procedure.

Minimum age for a kidney transplant: There is no official minimum age requirement to receive a kidney transplant. Every year, an estimated one out of every 65,000 children have kidney failure and need a kidney transplant. Most pediatric kidney transplant recipients are teenagers, but transplants have been performed successfully on babies under 1 year old and as small as 20 pounds.

Children that young must use a kidney from a deceased pediatric donor, but children aged 2 and older can receive an adult-sized kidney as long as it fits in their body.

According to the OPTN, .01% of kidney transplants to date have been in babies under 1 year old and .02% have been in children aged 1–5.

Maximum age for a kidney transplant: While there is no specific upper age limit for kidney transplantation, older patients may face additional evaluations before being approved for the procedure. Transplant centers may consider factors such as the individual’s physical fitness, existing medical conditions, the risk of complications, required post-transplant medical management, and life expectancy.

According to the latest data from OPTN, 13% of all kidney transplant recipients to date (including kidneys from both living and deceased donors) have been over 65, while 39% have been between the ages of 50 and 64. In 2022, 23% of all transplant recipients were over 65, and 41% were aged 50–64.

In general, if an older kidney patient is deemed unqualified for a transplant, it may not be solely due to their age. While age may be a factor, other issues can be more disqualifying, such as overall health, active or recurrent cancer, an active or uncontrolled infection, or severe health issues such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

If you are an older kidney patient, you can register with the National Kidney Registry to find a transplant center that will evaluate you as a potential kidney transplant recipient.

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