Paired donation Overview

Linking many lives through organ donation.

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Doctors and surgeons in the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center conduct paired donations for selected people who need liver transplants or kidney transplants. For the paired kidney transplant programs, Mayo Clinic campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota maintain shared lists to identify donors who may be compatible with other recipients for a kidney transplant. If a compatible donor is found for a recipient at a different location, doctors can perform a paired donation. The paired liver transplant programs only operate in Minnesota.

For paired donation, donors and their recipients aren't compatible for a transplant. However, the donor of each pair is compatible with the recipient of the other pair. If both donors and recipients are willing, your doctors may consider a paired donation. This program provides a way for people to receive a living-donor transplant instead of being on the deceased-donor waiting list for several years.

You're evaluated to determine if you're compatible with another donor and ready for a transplant. Your donor then gives his or her donation to the other recipient. The other recipient's donor gives his or her organ to you. Paired donation may include several pairs. In some cases of kidney transplant, the organ is removed from the donor at one Mayo Clinic site and flown to another site where the transplant takes place.

Mayo Clinic also evaluates potential individuals who wish to donate a kidney or partial liver to someone they don't know (altruistic donors). Such donors have the ability to start a transplant chain that may help several individuals in need of a transplant.

Start the process by completing a Health History Questionnaire. People who previously donated a kidney may be eligible to donate a portion of their liver to help others.

Kidney Paired Donation

Mikel Prieto, M.D.: You come in for a kidney transplant. You do have a living donor — a family member or a loved one or a friend — and what we do is we see if that donor doesn't match you, if we can find a donor for you.

Carrie Schinstock, M.D.: We can use the Kidney Paired Donation Program and our expertise in antibodies to sometimes not find a perfect match, but we can find a more compatible transplant. If a mother wanted to give to their child, but the mother was a different blood type, they would go into a pool of other donor/recipient pairs who had incompatible blood types, so that the donors can be matched up with new recipients. We are not going to let that donor actually donate without the recipient having a planned donor.

Mikel Prieto, M.D.: And that's why everybody needs to be familiar with this process, and understand and accept the fact that maybe the kidney you're getting is a better kidney for you than the one of the donor you brought into us.

Carrie Schinstock, M.D.: But Mayo is really unique because we have a three-site kidney paired donation program.

Mikel Prieto, M.D.: We're the largest program in the country. We do over 700 kidney transplants a year. That allows us to find better donors for our patients than would be otherwise in a smaller program.

Carrie Schinstock, M.D.: Mayo can bring benefit to the highly-sensitized patient.

Mikel Prieto, M.D.: For over 20 years, we started doing what's called a positive crossmatch transplant, which means even when you don't have a match, with special medications, special tools we're able to do transplants.

Carrie Schinstock, M.D.: Well, each member of the multidisciplinary team has particular area of expertise.

Mikel Prieto, M.D.: And we'll collaborate to find the best answers for each patient. If you come for a kidney transplant to Mayo Clinic, to any of the three transplant programs, the chances you will go home with an excellent working kidney is about 98 percent. We almost never see a failure.

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May 09, 2023