Overview on living kidney donation

The best treatment available for kidney failure is a kidney transplant. A working kidney transplant allows people with kidney failure to live longer and have a better quality of life. However, a kidney transplant is not right for everyone. During a transplant, the transplanted kidney is inserted into the recipient’s abdomen near the bladder. The recipient’s kidneys are not removed unless there is a good reason to remove them.

There are two types of transplants: a deceased donor transplant or a living donor transplant. A deceased donor transplant is given to a person on the deceased donor waitlist. It comes from someone who has died and signed up to be an organ donor.

The first successful living donor transplant was done in 1954. In Canada, there are more living donors than deceased donors. Even though the number of living donor transplants is increasing, there is still a shortage of kidneys for patients on the waitlist.  The average time on the wait list is three to five years for people in the Kingston area. Deceased donor transplants are successful in many people, but it is preferable to have a living donor.

Who can donate a kidney?

A suitable donor is someone who:

  •  Is over the age of 18
  •  Is willing to donate a kidney
  •  Is in good health
  •  Is psychologically stable
  •  Is capable of giving informed consent
  •  Is motivated to unconditionally improve the recipient’s quality of life

Who cannot donate?

Donors should NOT have the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Serious heart disease
  • Most types of cancers
  • Significant obesity

There are other health problems that may limit donors. These are determined on an individual basis.


The surgery to remove a kidney is called a nephrectomy. There are two types of nephrectomy: laparoscopic nephrectomy and open nephrectomy.

Laparoscopic nephrectomy

This surgery involves three or four small incisions in the abdomen. Through these incisions, surgeons insert special instruments to detach the kidney, as well as a tiny camera to show the surgery on a video screen. The kidney is removed through a small incision below the navel. Usually the left kidney is taken because it is often easier to remove than the right, and tends to have longer blood vessels. The surgery usually takes three to four hours. It is done under general anesthetic so the patient is asleep during the surgery.  The hospital stay is two to four days and recovery is four to six weeks.

Open nephrectomy

This surgery involves an incision about 10 inches on the side of the abdomen, along the bottom of the lower rib. The surgery takes two to four hours. The hospital stay is three to five days and recovery is six to eight weeks.

Our donor nephrectomy surgeons at Kingston Health Sciences Centre are all trained to do Laparoscopic nephrectomy; however, in certain circumstances there is a chance they might need to do an open nephrectomy.


Follow-up care is important in maintaining health and kidney function after donation. It helps to catch complications early and treat them appropriately.  Blood pressure, kidney function and urine will be monitored at each visit.


To learn more about becoming a living kidney donor, please read our guidebook on how to become an organ donor, which is available here

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Living Donor Coordinator at 613-549-6666 extension 7838. Once you have read all of the information and have made an informed decision, you must inform the Living Donor Coordinator if you wish to proceed.