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What is Living Donation
Although most organ donations take place after the donor has died, some organs and tissues can be donated from living donors. With the transplant waiting list increasing and the shortage of organs for transplant available, patients in dire need of a life saving procedure can be aided through living donation. Living donation allows more patients to be moved off of the waiting list, thus increasing the existing organ supply.
As a result of the growing need for donors, living donation has increased as an alternative to deceased donation, and more than 6,000 living donations take place each year. Family members, friends, and even anonymous individuals can become living donors if they meet the requirements to donate. A patient on the kidney waiting list waits an average of 5 years. More than 20% of both liver and lung transplant candidates have been waiting for more than 5 years.
Advantages of Living Donation
- Transplants from family members that have a stronger genetic match between the living donor and transplant recipient decreases the risk of rejection.
- Living donation allows the procedure to be scheduled at a time that works best for the donor and recipient.
- Transplant patients who receive a living donor kidney usually see immediate function.
Types of Organs Supplied by Living Donors
- Kidney (entire organ) - This is the most frequent type of living organ donation. Living individuals can donate one of their two well-functioning kidneys. Although all living kidney donors will experience a decrease in their kidney function, their remaining kidney provides the necessary function needed to remove waste from the body.
- Liver(segment) - A living donor can donate one of two lobes of their liver. This is possible because liver cells in the remaining lobe of the liver regenerate after the donation until the liver is almost its original size. This re-growth of the liver to near its original size occurs in a short period of time in both the liver donor and liver recipient.
- Lung (lobe) - Although lung lobes do not regenerate, individuals can donate a lobe of one lung. Living lung donation occurs when two adults giving the right and left lower lobes from each respectively to a recipient. The donor’s lungs must be the right volume and size in order to be a correct match.
- Intestine (portion) - Although very rare, it is possible to donate a portion of your intestine.
- Pancreas (portion) - Individuals can also donate a portion of the pancreas.
History of Living Donation
The first successful living donation transplant took place in 1954 between 23-year-old identical twins Ronald and Richard Herrick. Dr. Joseph Murray performed the procedure in Boston,Massachusetts by transplanting a health kidney from Ronald into Richard, who had chronic kidney failure.
Richard, the recipient, went on to lead an active life until his death eight years later from causes unrelated to the transplant. His living donor brother Ronald lived a full life until his death in 2010, 56 years after the surgery took place.
The Interactive Body
Explore the Interactive Body to learn about organs and tissues needed for others awaiting transplants.
National Donor Sabbath, observed annually in November, seeks to educate faith-based communities about the need for organ, eye and tissue donors. Order free materials to celebrate National Donor Sabbath, taking place Nov. 13-15!