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Living Donor Kidney Program

The Ochsner Health Living Donor Kidney Program

Patients who need a kidney transplant have two options to get a kidney: They can get on the transplant waiting list and potentially spend months waiting for a kidney from someone who dies, or they can get a transplant from a living donor. Most people are born with two kidneys — and the body can function with only one — so receiving a kidney either from someone you know, or a total stranger can significantly reduce the time it takes to get a transplant.

At Ochsner, about 30% of kidney transplant patients receive organs from living donors.

To start the process of becoming a living kidney donor, complete our questionnaire here: Living Kidney Donor Questionnaire  or email our program:

Shorter wait times

When you have a living kidney donation, you do not have to be on a waiting list for transplant surgery. In most cases, the sooner you have your transplant, the better your health. The shorter wait time also allows for kidney transplants before the recipient even needs to go on dialysis.

Health information

If you become a living kidney recipient, we’ll know more about the past and present health of the donor’s kidney than we might about a kidney from a deceased donor. A kidney from a living donor usually works better in the long term than a kidney from a deceased donor.

More time to plan

With a living donor kidney transplant, patients and their physicians have more time to plan. This means the patient’s transplant can be done when both the donor and recipient are in the best health possible.

The decision to donate a kidney must be a voluntary one, made willingly. It’s important to be as informed as possible if you’re considering becoming a living kidney donor. You can change your mind at any point during the process.

Living kidney donation is safe, and there are no long-term health effects. If you donate a kidney, your longevity of life will not be affected, and you will be at no greater risk for kidney failure than the average person.

You can donate if:

  • You are at least 18 years old
  • You are in overall good health

You cannot donate if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are severely overweight (BMI over 33)
  • Presently have cancer or an active infection
  • Use illegal drugs or abuse drugs

You may be able to donate if you have:

  • A history of cancer
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure that is well controlled
  • Kidney stones

If you are a potential donor, the first step to the process is completing our online health questionnaire.

Once the health questionnaire has been completed, your information will be reviewed by a living donor coordinator with our transplant program. If you are a possible candidate for donation, you will be contacted by our donor advocate to arrange any testing to make sure you are a match to your intended recipient and to make sure you are healthy enough to donate. Potential donors living outside of New Orleans can have blood tests and presurgical tests performed in your hometown. If you are making a non-directed donation, meaning you are donating to a stranger, you will still receive testing to make sure it is safe for you to donate.

After your testing, you will meet with our team of social workers, surgeons and donor advocates to receive education and your donor plan.

The kidney removal surgery is performed at Ochsner Medical Center using our da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic surgery system that assists your transplant team during the two- to four-hour procedure. As a result of the minimally invasive robotic surgery, you will typically spend less time in the hospital, experience less pain and have a shorter recovery period. You’ll stay in the hospital for 24 hours, and you can resume most of your regular activities within about a month.

For more detailed information about being a living donor and the donation process, please download our education handbook. If you have questions at any time, you can contact a living donor team member at

If you are not a match for your intended recipient, Ochsner offers the kidney paired exchange program.

During a paired exchange, which is a national kidney swap program, your evaluation and surgery are still done at Ochsner. You will offer your kidney to someone in the country waiting for a kidney transplant. In return, the person you tried to donate a kidney to gets a kidney that matches them.

Your kidney is sent to the transplant center where the person getting your kidney is being transplanted, and a kidney that matches your family member or friend is shipped to Ochsner for their transplant.


Kidney transplant surgery is performed at no cost to the living donor. The kidney recipient’s health insurance covers all costs associated with testing, surgery, the hospital stay and medical visits for the first month after surgery.

People can be on the United Network for Organ Sharing waiting list for a deceased donor kidney for years, often as many as three to five years. If a compatible living kidney donor can be found, the waiting process can be cut significantly. The transplant surgery is scheduled after your living donor has completed a full workup, which can still take up to six months.

While there is no set weight for donating a kidney, you will likely be unable to donate if your BMI is over 33.

There are several advantages to getting living donor kidneys over deceased donor kidneys. The benefits include shorter wait times, immediate kidney function and the ability to preplan or schedule your surgery.

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