• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Reasons to be a living kidney donor

Nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for kidney transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Finding a donor kidney that is compatible and matches the right blood and tissue types can be the biggest challenge, especially when the donor pool isn't as large as the number of people who need a transplant.

Dr. Naim Issa, a Mayo Clinic transplant nephrologist, says there are some common myths regarding living kidney donations that may be holding some people back.

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"We would like people to consider living kidney donation because it saves lives. We can get people better matched kidneys through a larger pool of donors," says Dr. Issa.

He says a common misconception is that a kidney donor needs to be a first-degree relative.

"Anyone can be a living kidney donor and does not need to be relative. It can be unrelated, can be an acquaintance or can be anyone," says Dr. Issa.

Another myth is the donor kidney needs come from a person of the same race.

"A kidney is a kidney. It doesn't matter whatever race you are; you should consider living kidney donation," says Dr. Issa.

He says if you're worried that you might be too old to donate, you shouldn't. If you're healthy and over 18, you might be a match.

"In general, we typically say up to 70 years, but, in fact, there is no age limit for living kidney donation," says Dr. Issa.

Up until recently, anyone with type 2 diabetes was ruled out as a living donor. But now, based on certain health requirements, some of those candidates may be eligible.

"By expanding the criteria to allow more individuals with type 2 diabetes to be potential donors, we can close the gap between the high demand for organs and the need for kidney transplants," says Dr. Issa.