Kidney Transplant Program

Kidney Organ Donation

There is an urgent need for organ donation in the United States, where more than 100,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.

Seattle Children’s provides specialty care across a 6-state region: Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Hawaii. We are uniquely positioned to search for viable organs in a wider geographic area than that of many other children’s hospitals.

Our doctors and surgeons are working to improve the situation for children who need transplants. They are actively involved with national United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) committees.

There are 2 sources for kidneys for transplant: 

  • Living donors
  • Deceased donors

Living Donors

The body needs only 1 kidney to filter blood, so a healthy person can donate 1 of their 2 kidneys and lead a normal life.

The benefits of living-donor kidney transplants may include: 

  • Reducing the patient’s stress of waiting for a donor
  • Increasing the number of transplants and helping relieve the nation’s shortage of donated organs
  • Making it easier to plan because you can schedule the surgeries at a time that works for both the donor and the recipient
  • Who can donate a kidney?

    People over age 21 can donate a kidney. In some special cases, we accept donors as young as 18 if they are closely related to the recipient (like a brother or sister). We prefer donors to be under age 50 if they are donating to a pediatric patient.

    To be a living donor, a person must be in excellent health and have no psychiatric problems. They must be volunteering their kidney freely.

  • How can I become a living kidney donor?

    Relatives or friends who are interested in becoming a living donor should contact the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) Living Kidney Donor Program for more information and to start the assessment process. UWMC will do a work-up to make sure the donor: 

    • Is donating of their own free will
    • Is healthy enough to donate
    • Understands the risks of donating 

    The donor needs to have the same blood type as the patient needing the kidney.

    Learn more about living donation.

  • What if a willing donor has a different blood type?

    If a relative or friend is willing to donate but has a different blood type than your child, we can partner with the National Kidney Registry (NKR) to look for a paired exchange. This means NKR tries to:

    • Match your willing donor to a patient with the same blood type
    • Match a different living donor to your child

    Exchanging donors this way can create a chain of kidney transplants, sometimes as many as 30.

    Ask your transplant coordinator or nephrologist for more information about paired exchanges. Learn more about NKR.

Deceased Donors

Deceased donors are people whose organs have been made available for donation at their own request before death or by their families after death.

Learn more about organ allocation (the process of deciding who gets an organ).