Skip to main content

We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. By using this site, you agree to these terms.

All Geisinger locations are open and providing patient care. Please arrive as scheduled for your appointment unless you hear from a member of your care team. We appreciate your patience if you experience any delays during your visit.

Keep these things in mind before starting the process.

Choosing to donate a kidney is a selfless act. And a big decision. So before you make the choice, it’s good to gather as much information as possible. Wondering what questions to ask? Start with these.

1. How can I get started with donating a kidney?

Wondering how to donate a kidney? Before you can donate, your care team needs to run tests to check whether you’re healthy enough. If you want to donate to someone in particular, “You’ll start with blood tests to see if you and the person you plan to give to are a match,” says Michael Marvin, MD, chair of transplantation and liver surgery for Geisinger. After that, you’ll have more lab work and urine tests. An electrocardiogram (EKG) and a CT scan will check your heart and kidney health. The team will screen you for things like diabetes, high blood pressure or lung disease. You may not be able to donate if you have any of these. Your provider will let you know if you need any other testing.

During your physical workup, you’ll see a social worker for an evaluation as well. Donating your kidney can be an emotional process, so they want to be sure you have a support system in place — and that you’re making an informed decision.

One person on your medical team is a living donor advocate. They can discuss questions or concerns you may have at any time throughout the process. 

Your care team is assigned only to you (not the recipient). And your evaluation and test results are all kept confidential.

2. How does my donated kidney help someone else?

Donating a kidney can save a life. For someone waiting for a kidney, getting one from a living donor can reduce their wait time. And typically, living donor kidneys last longer than those from deceased donors. “Not only can the transplant lengthen the recipient's life, but it can also improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Marvin.

3. What is kidney donation surgery like?

Before your procedure, you’ll have pre-op testing done. The day of the surgery you’ll get an IV and be put under general anesthesia. Once you’re taken back for surgery, your surgeon will make a small incision in your abdomen. “We use minimally invasive methods for removing a donated kidney,” Dr. Marvin says. “This means your surgeon will make several small incisions, rather than one large one. With this method, you’ll have less pain and faster healing time, and most patients go home in about one day.” 

However, depending on how your surgery went and how well you’re healing, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days.

4. What is recovery like after donating a kidney?

Recovery after donating a kidney may be easier than you think. When you leave the hospital, your abdomen will be sore. “And you may have some pain and itching at your incision site while it heals,” Dr. Marvin says. You can go back to your normal routine in a few days. Plan on not lifting anything heavy for about six weeks and avoid contact sports.

You’ll have a few checkups with your care team as you recover. They’ll check your blood pressure and do bloodwork to make sure your remaining kidney is working properly.

Besides physical differences, donating a kidney can affect you emotionally, too. Consider talking to your healthcare provider about how you’re feeling. They can help you find resources to deal with any emotions you may feel.

5. Is it safe to live with one kidney?

Most people who donate a kidney go on to live healthy, normal lives. Your remaining kidney will compensate for the loss of the other one. “Know that you may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure in the future,” says Dr. Marvin. Your healthcare provider will monitor your kidney function over time. And they’ll address any concerns you may have.

Want to donate? Start the conversation

If you’re interested in becoming a living kidney donor, talk to your healthcare provider. They can answer your questions and help you start the process to see if you’re a match.

Next steps:

What it means to have “organ donor” on your driver’s license
5 myths about kidney donation
Sign up to see if you qualify to be a donor

Content from General Links with modal content