Living donor kidney transplant

This is when a living relative, friend or even a stranger donates a kidney to you

Key points

  • Receiving a kidney from a living donor has many advantages 
  • Kidneys from living donors are more likely to work straight away and remain working for longer
  • It usually takes just months to arrange a kidney transplant from a living donor
  • On average, a kidney transplant from a living donor lasts for 20-25 years

Receiving a kidney from a living donor

A living donor is someone who has agreed to donate their kidney to you while they are still alive. This is possible as nearly everyone has two kidneys, but can lead normal healthy lives with just one kidney. A living donor will need an operation to remove one of their kidneys so it can be transplanted into you.

On average, approximately 30 out of 100 kidney transplants are from living donors. 

Who can be a living donor?

Benefits of receiving a kidney from a living donor

Receiving a kidney from a living donor has many advantages over deceased kidney donation. On average, kidneys from living donors last longer and there is usually less of a wait.

Once a potential living donor comes forward, it usually takes 3-6 months for them to have all their tests and for the operation to be arranged. If you’re not yet on dialysis but your kidneys are failing, this makes it more likely that a kidney transplant can be done before you eventually need dialysis. 

Living kidney transplants can also be can be planned in advance so they almost always happen during the day.

Download the leaflet: Benefits of receiving a kidney from a living donor

Comparison of living donor and deceased donor kidney transplantations

The timeframes in this table are average estimates. Please speak to your kidney care team for more detailed information about how long your transplant might last and possible waiting times.

What's being compared? Living donor kidney transplant Deceased donor kidney transplant
Average length of time the kidney will last 20-25 years 15-20 years
Average waiting time for the transplant 3-6 months 2-3 years
Can it be done before dialysis is needed? Sometimes Sometimes, but this is less likely due to the waiting time
Transplant surgery times can be planned in advance? Yes – surgery is usually during the day No – surgery often takes place at night
Chance of the transplanted kidney working within a day of the surgery Higher. The kidney has come from someone who is fit and well, so it almost always works straight away. Lower. The kidney has come from someone who has died, so it takes longer for the kidney to ‘wake up’ and start working.
Risk from the donated kidney Lower. The health of the donor is easier to thoroughly check before donation. The donor is unlikely to have had major health issues. Higher. It is more difficult to thoroughly check the health of the donor, and because the donor is more likely to have had major health issues.


Answers to common questions

Talk about donation 

Every year in the UK, thousands of people’s lives are saved or improved thanks to the generosity of living and deceased donors.

But, sadly, there are still lots of patients we can’t treat because we don’t have enough organs to transplant. We particularly need organs donated from people who are Black, Asian, or belong to a minority ethic group.

Talking about donation is crucial to raising awareness.

Talk about donation

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