Jefferson University Hospitals

Deceased Donor Kidney Transplant

When a patient does not have a family member, loved one or other individual willing and able to donate a kidney, a transplant from a deceased donor is the only option. Rated a Top Hospital for Kidney Disease by Philadelphia magazine, our Kidney Transplant Program has a long history of outstanding outcomes for both organ and patient survival. You'll be cared for by a team of highly specialized nurses and physicians, deeply experienced in the operation you are now considering.

What Does a Deceased Donor Kidney Transplant Involve?

Deceased donor kidneys come from people who have died suddenly, usually from an accident or bleed into the brain. These individuals are usually between one and 70 years of age and have been relatively healthy before their death. These people have previously expressed to their families a willingness to donate their organs, or their families have made the decision to donate their organs so that someone else will have a chance to live a better life.

It isn't necessary to match the donor and recipient for age, sex or race. All donors are screened for hepatitis viruses and the HIV virus. What's more, all deceased donor organs are tested extensively to help ensure that they don't pose a health threat to the recipient. Also, many studies – such as ABO blood type and HLA matching – are performed to ensure that the organs are functioning properly.

As soon as a deceased donor is declared brain-dead, the kidneys are removed and placed in sterile fluid similar to fluid in body cells. They are then stored in the refrigerator. The harvested kidneys need to be transplanted within 24 hours of recovery – which is why recipients are often called to the hospital in the middle of the night or at short notice.

Waiting List for Kidney Transplant

If you require such a transplant, you will be put on the waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). This national organization is responsible for fairly prioritizing recipients as organs become available for transplant. Priority is based on several factors, including:

  • Length of time on the waiting list
  • ABO blood type
  • Degree of human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) matching