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Kidney Diseases

Am I Healthy Enough to Be a Kidney Donor?

03/10/2006

Question:

My domestic partner was recently diagnosed with kidney disease due to high blood pressure. I have given thought to donating one of my kidneys and I understand that I need to be in good physical and mental health. I am a smoker with problems fighting depression, but I am pretty determined to help him since my father passed last year following a serious stroke due to high blood pressure. I want to know what steps can be taken to improve my health. I know what needs to be done to live a healthier life but how do you define "healthy" when it comes to donating an organ?

Answer:

The screening of potential kidney donors varies somewhat depending on the age of the donor and on the criteria of the specific transplant center. In general, donors should be between 18 and 60 years old and must be in good mental and physical health.

1. The first test that is done for a living donor is an ABO/Rh blood typing; the donor and recipient need to have compatible (but not necessarily identical) blood types before testing can proceed any further.

2. A donor should be free of diseases that might affect his/her own kidneys later in life: these include hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of chronic diseases such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

3. Donors are also tested carefully for diseases or infections that might be transmitted to the recipient: cancer, hepatitis B and C, teeth/gum infections, to name a few.

4. Mental health screening is performed in detail, in order to carefully explore the donor's motives for giving a kidney, and also because donation may cause problems in the relationship between the donor and the recipient, particularly if the transplant doesn't work out.

The Transplant Living website may provide you with more useful information. Best wishes as you go through the process of making this very complex and important decision. I urge you to take your time and gather as much information as you can. I hope that everything works out well for both of you.

For more information:

Go to the Kidney Diseases health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Mildred   Lam, MD Mildred Lam, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University