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What to Do If You’re Disqualified from Becoming a Kidney Donor Due to Your BMI

Suzanne McGuire, Clinical Support Consultant, National Kidney Registry

If you are considering being a living kidney donor, you may be wondering what disqualifies you from being an organ donor. There are several reasons why someone might be disqualified as a living kidney donor. One of them is weight, or more specifically, body mass index (BMI).

BMI is a number calculated based on a person’s weight and height. It is commonly used as an indicator of whether an individual’s weight falls within a healthy range relative to their height. If you are interested in kidney donor requirements and want to find your BMI, you can use this easy BMI calculator.

A range of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a normal BMI for adults, while 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and over 30 is considered obese. When you register to become a living kidney donor, you’ll undergo a number of medical tests and evaluations to determine whether you meet all the kidney donation requirements, including an assessment of your BMI.

While eligibility criteria vary between transplant centers and there are no specific kidney donor weight requirements, in general, potential kidney donors with a BMI over 35 are usually rejected as kidney donors. Many transplant centers will provide a target weight goal for those who are highly motivated to donate but do not meet the BMI cutoff. Those with a BMI of 30 to 35 may be encouraged to lose weight before surgery.

The reason for this is that being significantly overweight can increase the risk of complications during surgery and after donation. These risks may include issues related to anesthesia, wound healing, and kidney function, as well as elevating future risk for developing health problems such as hypertension and/or diabetes.

However, if you have been rejected as a kidney donor solely due to your BMI, you have options. You can lose weight gradually through diet and exercise and apply again when you are in a healthier range. Many people have lost substantial weight, 100 pounds or more, motivated solely by the desire to donate a kidney to help someone live a healthier life.

If you need help or support losing weight, a new program can assist you. Project Donor offers free access to weight loss, smoking cessation, and emotional support resources to give potential donors the support they need on the path to achieving eligibility for donation. The transplant center where you registered can refer you to Project Donor, or you can join on your own.

Project Donor is a not-for-profit, privately funded initiative that provides resources and support to people who have been screened out of the living organ donation process for BMI or smoking. It does not provide healthcare or medical advice, but it does offer a wide variety of free resources including free subscriptions to Noom and Weight Watchers, free sessions with OnPoint Nutrition and a free electronic scale to help you track your progress.

You will also have access to a dedicated case manager to answer questions, help you navigate the living donor system, and provide support and encouragement on your weight-loss journey.

For more information, visit https://projectdonor.org or email [email protected].