Approximately 85,000 people in the United States are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. With this tremendous shortage, many patients find themselves turning to family members and friends in hopes of a lifesaving match.
Unfortunately, only 40 to 50% of potential donor candidates are found to be compatible with their recipient. If no other compatible living donors are identified, then the patient must continue to wait for a deceased donor.
Another option, called paired kidney donation, expands the possibilities for finding a suitable donor.
Paired kidney donation matches one incompatible donor / recipient pair to someone else in the same situation; the donor of the first pair gives to the recipient of the second pair, and vice versa. In other words, the pairs “swap” kidneys.
The two pairs remain anonymous throughout the process to avoid undue pressure on the donors, and both donors undergo anesthesia and surgery simultaneously.
Related medical expenses for both the donor and recipient are normally covered by the recipient’s insurance, and the living donor should not incur any expenses for the evaluation and procedure; however, since each health insurance policy can vary, donor recipients are encouraged to work with their transplant team to determine exactly what his or her specific coverage entails. Costs that are not covered by health insurance include travel, meals and lodging.
Because the recipients both receive what’s referred to as a living donor kidney (the organ came from a living human), the procedure has fewer complications and the average function lasts twice as long (18 years) as that of a deceased donor kidney. Another advantage is that patients can be removed from the national waiting list for a transplant, allowing others on the list to be eligible in a shorter period of time.
The Alliance for Paired Donation works with transplant centers across the country, utilizing a computerized web-based program that continually searches for matches with other program participants. As more donor pairs participate, the higher the probability for a match. It is estimated that paired donation will one day allow for an additional 3,000 transplants per year. With these high success rates, paired kidney donations are helping more patients to live longer, happier lives.
If you are interested in learning more about paired kidney donation, visit the Alliance for Paired Donation website.