The Need for Living Kidney Donors

Currently in the United States, more than 90,000 people need a kidney transplant. Seventeen people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant. The need for living kidney donation is high and continues to grow. There are not enough deceased donors to keep pace with the number of people who need a kidney transplant. This means the waitlist is very long, with an average wait time of at least three to five years. Living donation is the most precious gift you can give to someone on the transplant waitlist. By choosing to become a living donor you could save a life. If you are interested in giving the gift of life through organ donation, visit and complete the online questionnaire to see if you qualify. 

Living Donor Kidney Transplantation at Penn State Health

Our foremost goal is to help you pass on the gift of life while ensuring your health and safety above all.  Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has the most experienced living donor kidney transplant program in central Pennsylvania, performing more than 600 living donor kidney transplants to date. Our pioneering history with the complex procedure began in 1983 when our transplant surgeons performed the medical center’s first living donor adult kidney transplant. One year later, we performed our first pediatric living donor kidney transplant at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. 

For more information on living donation see our Living Kidney Donation Patient Guide.

Learn more about the transplant process

Why Should You Donate a Kidney?

Living donation is the quickest way for a person in need of a kidney to receive a transplant. Becoming a living donor would allow you to improve a recipient’s quality of life in the following ways:

  • Better outcomes: A kidney transplant from a living donor starts working faster, lasts longer and can extend a patient’s life span longer compared to an individual who receives a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • Shorter wait times: Patients on the national transplant list typically wait six or more years for a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • More lives saved: Living kidney donation frees a spot on the waitlist, saving the next person on the list faster.
  • No need for dialysis treatments: Living donation helps patients get off dialysis sooner, with a better outcome and quality of life than patients on dialysis.

Who Can Be a Living Kidney Donor?

You do not have to be a blood relative or have a compatible blood type in order to be considered to donate. 

Living kidney donors must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 70
  • Go through an evaluation and testing process
  • Have a stable living situation with family or social support
  • Have good overall mental and physical health

Conditions that may prevent a person from being a living donor:

  • Diabetes
  • Significant obesity
  • HIV-positive or history of hepatitis
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure or use of multiple medications to control high blood pressure
  • History of more than one episode of kidney stones
  • Chronic use of medication for arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Mental illness
  • Strong family history of kidney disease (polycystic kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, Alport’s disease). Learn more about inherited kidney diseases.

If you are unsure if you qualify for living donation, visit to find out.

Types of Living Kidney Donations

Determining who can receive your kidney involves testing your blood and tissue type and then matching them to a compatible recipient. Common types of living donations include:

  • Direct: You name the specific person to receive your kidney for transplant, usually a family member or close friend.
  • Paired: You give your kidney to a compatible recipient, and your friend or family member receives a compatible kidney from another living donor.
  • Non-direct: You decide to donate a kidney to an unknown compatible recipient who needs a transplant.

More About Paired Donation

Paired donation can occur if testing reveals that you and your chosen recipient are not a good medical match. Kidney paired donation (KPD), also called kidney exchange, gives that transplant candidate another option. With KPD, living donor kidneys are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant. Penn State Health uses the National Kidney Registry for kidney paired donations.


On the day of surgery, the donor is taken to the operating room first to have a kidney removed laparoscopically. The surgeon will use a pencil-thin camera and insert tiny instruments into small incisions to remove the kidney. Smaller incisions and less disruption inside the body mean less discomfort, a shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery. The donor operation usually lasts three to four hours. The recipient will be in a nearby operating room. The donor kidney is transported to the recipient’s room, where it is surgically implanted. The operation for the kidney recipient can last four to six hours. Usually, a donor is admitted to Hershey Medical Center on the day of surgery and stays for two to four days, but may vary based on their condition.

Post-Donation Care

After your incision has healed, you should experience no difference in your energy level, ability on the job, life expectancy, susceptibility to illness, or sexual function. You do not need any special diet or medications. Follow-up care is provided in the immediate period after discharge from the Medical Center and on a long-term basis with annual visits.

Organ Donation Statistics

How many people are waiting for a transplant? Who receives organs, and what organs are most needed. Explore donation statistics.