Living Kidney Transplant Donation: Myths vs. Facts

Mar 9, 2017

New York

Rendered version of the kidneys

It is no secret that the United States —in particular, New York — needs more people to register as living organ donors. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 people in the country are awaiting a kidney transplant.

Donating a kidney has never been safer, and most donors find the process very rewarding. In a three-year survey of organ donors at NewYork-Presbyterian, 93 percent of donors said they would donate again. 

Dr. Sandip Kapur, chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, led the team that performed one of the nation’s first living-donor kidney transplant surgery chains in 2008. These chains have improved the opportunity for patients in need of kidney transplants to find a compatible donor by pairing them with potential donors who were incompatible for another recipient. This Kidney Month, Dr. Kapur is hoping to dispel some of the myths behind becoming a living kidney donor:

Myth 1: I’m Too Young/Old to Donate My Kidney

If you’re in good health, you can donate a kidney from the time you are 21 years old until you’re into your 70’s.

Myth 2: Only a Close Relative Can Donate

Just about anyone can donate a kidney to someone in need of a transplant, as long as the donor is medically able to donate. In fact, even if you have a willing but incompatible donor, you could enter a registry to “swap” donors with other incompatible pairs. This is known as a kidney paired donation or “KPD”.

Myth 3: I Can Only Donate if I Know Someone Who Needs a Kidney

You can also become an altruistic donor. These are donors who do not know the person to whom they are donating their kidney. NewYork-Presbyterian pioneered one of the first Never Ending Altruistic Donor (NEAD) chains, in which one altruistic living kidney donor begins a chain of kidney transplants that otherwise would not be possible.

Myth 4: Living Donors Face a Long Recovery

With today’s minimally invasive surgical procedures for living kidney donors, the majority of donors are only in the hospital for one to two days, and are recovered enough to return to work within about three weeks after donation.

Myth 5: Living Kidney Donation is a New Field

The first successful living kidney donation occurred in 1954, more than 60 years ago! Since then, surgical innovations have improved the experience of living kidney donors tremendously.


NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive healthcare delivery networks, focused on providing innovative and compassionate care to patients in the New York metropolitan area and around the globe. In collaboration with two renowned medical school partners, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is consistently recognized as a leader in medical education, groundbreaking research and clinical innovation.

NewYork-Presbyterian has four major divisions: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is ranked #1 in the New York metropolitan area by U.S. News and World Report and repeatedly named to the magazine’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation; NewYork-Presbyterian Regional Hospital Network is comprised of leading hospitals in and around New York and delivers high-quality care to patients throughout the region; NewYork-Presbyterian Physician Services connects medical experts with patients in their communities; and NewYork-Presbyterian Community and Population Health features the hospital’s ambulatory care network sites and operations, community care initiatives and healthcare quality programs, including NewYork Quality Care, established by NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell and Columbia.

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. Each year, nearly 40,000 NewYork-Presbyterian professionals deliver exceptional care during more than 4 million patients.

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