Normally, people are born with two kidneys, though a person can live a normal, healthy life with only one kidney.

A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure done in some patients with kidney failure, also known as end stage renal disease (ESRD).


In the procedure, a healthy kidney from the donor is transplanted into the patient with kidney disease.

  • The donor’s remaining kidney will grow larger and will perform the work of two kidneys.
  • The recipient’s non-functioning kidneys are usually not removed; they will shrivel up and not affect the function of the donated organ.

When a kidney is donated from a living person, the surgeries are performed at the same time in side-by-side operating rooms. The operation performed to remove the healthy kidney from the donor is called a nephrectomy.

A kidney can be removed in two different ways: the traditional open surgery or the laparoscopic surgery, a less-invasive technique where the surgery is performed through a much smaller incision. (Some donors may not be able to have laparoscopic surgery because of previous surgeries or anatomical variations. These variations are generally detected during the testing process, at which time the donor would be notified.)


There are many benefits of receiving a kidney from a living donor:

  • No waiting period
  • Surgeries can be scheduled at a convenient time for both the donor and recipient
  • If the living donor is a blood relative with a genetic match, the risk of rejection is decreased
  • A kidney from a live donor typically works sooner and better than a kidney from a deceased person
  • A kidney from a live donor lasts longer than a kidney from a deceased person


  • In February 2012, more than 90,800 people were waiting for kidney transplants.
  • In 2008 there were only enough kidney donations to perform approximately 16,500 kidney transplants.
  • Because of this organ shortage, thousands of people die while waiting for kidney transplants each year.
  • In 2009, nearly 6,000 kidney transplants were made possible by living donors.

About Living Donation.