Who can donate a kidney?

In order to qualify as a living donor, an individual must be:

  • Physically fit
  • In good general health
  • Free from substantial high blood pressure
  • Free from diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease
  • Between 21 and 60 years old at Penn Transplant Institute. Potential donors who are 61 and older are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Factors such as gender and ethnicity are not considered in determining a successful match.

Potential kidney donors may range from 18 years of age into their 70's. Overall good health is required, and immunologic compatibility with the recipient is preferred. People with certain diseases such as cancer, HIV, hepatitis C or diabetes will not be eligible to donate. Potential kidney donors must undergo extensive testing and interviews to determine eligibility to donate.

Donors may be blood relatives of the recipient, or they may be unrelated. Compatible live donor transplants (in which blood type and genetic make-up between donor and recipient match well) are the gold standard of kidney transplant procedures. Better genetic and immunologic matches help to reduce the risk of organ rejection. A kidney from a perfectly matched sibling donor can function for an average of 35 years, while less perfectly matched kidneys function for 20 years on average.

Continue Learning about Kidney Donation

How long do I have to wait for a donor kidney?
Gabriel M. Danovitch, MDGabriel M. Danovitch, MD
Kidney transplants are the most common type of organ transplantation with more than 17,000 operation...
More Answers
What are the misconceptions about kidney donation?
National Kidney FoundationNational Kidney Foundation
Here are some myths surrounding kidney donation (and donation in general): Myth: My religion does...
More Answers
How common are kidney donations?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
Kidneys are the most frequently donated and most request transplant among organ donations. The funct...
More Answers
Dr. Lloyd Ratner - About Kidney Donation
Dr. Lloyd Ratner - About Kidney Donation

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.