What is living kidney donation?
What happens when kidneys stop working?
The kidneys remove waste products from our blood. They also control the levels of salt and fluid in our bodies. Sometimes an illness or a disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can cause the kidneys to fail. When this happens, it is called “end-stage kidney disease”, because the kidneys are nearing the end of their ability to work correctly.
When the kidneys stop working, the patient must have some type of treatment to remove the waste products from the blood. One option is a kidney transplant. The kidney can come from a healthy living person (living donor) or from someone who has recently died (deceased donor). Dialysis is another option. Dialysis uses a machine to remove waste products from the blood. For those who are eligible, transplant from a living donor is the best option.
How does living kidney donation work?
A person who donates a kidney to someone in need is called a “living donor,” and a person who needs a kidney is called a “transplant candidate.”
Any adult who is in good health can be assessed to become a living donor. Every potential donor must have a complete medical checkup to make sure they are healthy enough to donate a kidney to a person in need.
The kidney donation process involves an operation to remove one kidney from the donor and another surgery to place the kidney into the transplant candidate. After the donation, the donor’s remaining kidney starts to work harder, to make up for the removed kidney. The donor should have a checkup with a doctor every year to make sure their remaining kidney is still working correctly.
Types of living donation
What are the advantages of living kidney donation?
- For patients who have end-stage kidney disease and are eligible for a kidney transplant, a kidney from a living donor is the best treatment.
- A kidney from a living donor usually lasts longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.
- A living kidney donation can reduce or even prevent the patient’s need for dialysis.
- Every patient who receives a transplant from a living donor comes off the wait-list for a kidney from a deceased donor. This shortens the wait-time for other patients on the transplant waitlist.
- The donation and transplant operations can be planned for a time when both the potential donor and the transplant candidate are in the best possible health. Being in good health improves the recovery after surgery.
- Many people who have donated a kidney say that helping someone in need is a positive personal experience.
What if the potential donor and transplant candidate are not a match?
If the blood tests show that the potential donor and the transplant candidate do not match, they are called an “incompatible pair.” This could happen if the donor’s blood type is not compatible with the transplant candidate’s blood type. Or, it could mean that the transplant candidate has proteins in their blood (known as antibodies) that will reject a kidney from that donor. If the potential donor is not compatible with the transplant candidate, they can still try to find a suitable kidney for the transplant candidate through the Kidney Paired Donation program. This program tries to match kidney donors with transplant candidates who need a kidney. Ask your living kidney donation program or transplant centre for more information.
Information about how to become a living kidney donor
Information is available in the following languages:
My Transplant Coach Canada
My Transplant Coach Canada is an online, video-based decision aid for patients with kidney failure. It uses animated videos to help Canadian patients understand what treatment options are available, so they can make informed decisions that are right for them.
Learn from lived experience
The International Living Donation Storytelling Project is a one-of-a-kind digital library of video stories, recorded by real people, sharing their living donor and kidney transplant experiences.
Tell your story
Are you a living organ donor? Have you received a kidney transplant? Are you a caregiver or advocate for living kidney donation? Join the International Storytelling project and help others learn from your experience.
What is kidney paired donation?
The kidney paired donation program matches transplant candidates with suitable living donors. It gives people the chance to become a living kidney donor while ensuring that someone they want to help receives a needed kidney, even if they are not a direct match.
My Paired Donation Coach Canada
My Paired Donation Coach Canada is a series of animated videos developed for patients, their friends and family, and potential donors to learn about the national Kidney Paired Donation program and how it may help some patients receive a kidney transplant.
How do I get started?
If you know a person who is waiting for a kidney transplant, you can talk to them. Or, you can contact a living donation program in your province. If you would like to become a non-directed anonymous donor a living donation program in your province can give you more information.
Contact information for the living donation programs can be found below:
The Living Donor Services Program – Edmonton
Phone: 780-407-8698 | Toll free: 1-866-253-6833
Southern Alberta Transplant Program – Calgary
St. Paul’s Hospital – Vancouver
Tel: 604-806-9027 | Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Phone: 604-875-2272 | Toll-free: 1-888-300-3088 ext. 2272
Horizon Health – Saint John Regional Hospital Living Donor Program
Réseau de santé Vitalité Health Network – Hôpital Dr. Georges L. Dumont
Newfoundland and Labrador
Eastern Health – Waterford Hospital – St. John’s
Western Health – Western Memorial Regional Hospital – Corner Brook
Phone: 709-637-5000 ext. 5396
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Cape Breton Regional Hospital – Sydney
Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre – Halifax
Queen Elizabeth Hospital - Charlottetown
University Health Network – Toronto General Hospital
Phone: 416-340-4800 ext. 4848
St. Michael’s Hospital – Toronto
Hospital for Sick Children – Toronto
*Please contact the team at University Health Network – Toronto General to be evaluated as a living donor on behalf of a child at Hospital for Sick Kids.
St. Joseph’s Health Care – Hamilton
Phone: 905-522-1155 ext. 33780
The Ottawa Hospital – Riverside Campus
Phone: 613-738-8400 ext. 82778
Phone: 613-549-6666 ext. 7112
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal
Phone: 514-890-8000 ext. 26616
Phone: 514-252-3400 ext. 1275
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal - Sainte-Justine
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec - Laval University
Phone: 418-525-4444 ext. 15262
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke
Phone: 819-346-1110 ext. 14129
McGill University Health Centre
Phone: 514-934-1934 ext. 36003
Saskatchewan Transplant Program – Regina
Saskatchewan Transplant Program - Saskatoon
Canadian Blood Services' role in Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation
Canadian Blood Services works with the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (OTDT) community to improve national system performance. We do this through the development of leading practices, professional education, public awareness and data analysis and reporting. We also manage clinical programs that support interprovincial sharing of organs.