Becoming a Living Donor

There are currently two types of organ transplants that are able to use living donors: liver transplants and kidney transplants.

Living liver donation is possible because of the liver's unique ability to regenerate. The procedure involves removing only part of the donor's liver. The remaining section naturally grows and begins to restore function.

Unlike the liver, kidneys do not regenerate. It is possible, however, for a person to function normally with only one kidney. When a living person donates a kidney, his or her remaining kidney enlarges as it takes over the work of two kidneys.

Living liver or kidney donors do not have to be a blood relative of the recipient. But they do need to meet some basic requirements. In addition to having a compatible blood type, potential donors should be:

  • 18 to 55 years old, although kidney donors may be older
  • In good health with no major medical or psychiatric illnesses
  • A non-smoker for at least six weeks prior to surgery
  • Able to understand and comply with instructions for surgery and recovery
  • Motivated by altruistic reasons

Potential donors will be evaluated to make sure they are considering the procedure for the right reasons. Donors cannot be pregnant and cannot be overweight, although those who lose weight may be considered.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.