Emory's step-by-step guide to kidney donation

by Ana Ivey

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Reduced energy levels because of kidney failure greatly limit Mike Mahoney's time tinkering with his beloved classic cars.

Kidney transplants are one of the most common transplant operations in the United States.

Anyone 18 and up can donate a kidney, such as a family member, a spouse or a friend. Here’s a summary based on the Emory Transplant Center’s procedures in Atlanta.

Phase One of the donation process involves a 30-minute telephone interview that includes a medical screening. If the potential donor is deemed an appropriate candidate, he or she will continue to the next step.

Three blood tests are required in Phase Two. The first test determines if the potential donor’s blood type is compatible with that of the recipient. To determine if the recipient has any antibodies or sensitivities to the donor, a second blood test is performed.

A final blood test, HLA typing, is performed to see if the donor and recipient share any of the same genetic markers. If everything checks out, the donor is asked if he or she would like to proceed to Phase Three.

In Phase Three, the donor spends two days at the Emory Transplant Center undergoing medical and psychological evaluations, including a physical exam, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram and blood and urine tests. A computed tomography angiogram or magnetic resonance angiogram to examine the donor’s blood vessels is also performed. 

Additional tests must be current within one year, including a gynecological exam and Pap test, mammogram and a colonoscopy.

Lastly, Phase Four is the transplantation of the kidney. Since the fall of 1999, the Emory Transplant Center has used the laparoscopic technique. This technique offers the donor a potentially quicker recovery.

Dr. Ken Newell, professor of surgery and director of the living donor program at the Emory Transplant Center in Atlanta, said there are between 1,700-1,800 patients waiting for kidneys at Emory, but the number of transplants performed there last year was only 247.

“The real issue here is that there are many more people on the transplant list than there are donors,” said Dr. Newell. “There are many deserving people who don’t get transplants or don’t get them in a timely manner. So we have debates as to what is the fairest way to assign organs to people. If we had more organ donors, we would have more organs to allocate and improve the quality of life for many more people, but everybody has to do what’s right for them.”

So who pays for the donor’s medical expenses? More than likely, the recipient’s medical insurance or Medicare. According to Mike Mahoney, his insurance will even cover a donor’s missed days at work.

For more information regarding the Emory Kidney Transplant Center, call 404-727-3250, 866-727-3250, or visit www.emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-center.

For information on a national scale, visit the United Network for Organ Sharing at www.unos.org.




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