Transplant Candidates

Who Is a Kidney Transplant Candidate?

You may be a candidate for a kidney transplant if your physician* has diagnosed you with kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease. This means your kidneys can no longer filter your blood properly. You may already be on dialysis.

If you are a good candidate for kidney transplantation, you will be registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to find a donor kidney.

As a kidney candidate, you will get an individual estimated post-transplant survival (EPTS) score. This is a percentage score that ranges from 0 to 100 percent. The score is associated with how long you will likely need a transplanted kidney compared with other candidates. If you have an EPTS score of 20 percent, you are likely to need a kidney longer than 80 percent of other candidates. Someone with an EPTS score of 60 percent will likely need a kidney longer than 40 percent of other people. Your transplant team can calculate your EPTS score for you.

Your EPTS is calculated based on factors that affect how long you are likely to need a kidney, including:

  • Your age
  • Length of time spent on dialysis
  • Whether you have received a previous transplant (of any organ)
  • If you currently have diabetes

The donated kidneys also receive a score, called the kidney donor profile index (KDPI), based on the age and health of the donor. The 20 percent of kidneys that are expected to last the longest—those with a KDPI score of 20 percent or less—will first be offered to patients likely to need a transplant the longest—those with an EPTS of 20 percent or less.

Your transplant team* can discuss with you the best options for matching based on your EPTS score and the types of kidneys that would best meet your need.

The new kidney allocation system

In early December of 2014, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that manages the kidney transplant waiting list, began a new system of allocating (or giving) kidneys to candidates on the kidney transplant waiting list. The previous system had been in place for nearly 30 years and, while successful, there were ways it could be improved.

If you are already on the waiting list, you will continue to be on the list.

The goals of the new system include:

  • Increasing the length of time a kidney will work in a recipient
  • Shortening the waiting time for candidates who have had difficulty finding a kidney match due to uncommon blood types or have an immune system that makes it hard to match most kidneys
  • Giving waiting time credit to those candidates who started dialysis before getting on the kidney transplant waiting list
  • Providing more transplant opportunities, so that everyone has a better chance of being transplanted

The UNOS Questions and Answers for Transplant Candidates about Kidney Allocation brochure goes into greater detail about the kidney allocation system. Please read this brochure in English or Spanish to better understand how the new system works and how it may affect you.

If you have questions regarding the allocation system, please contact the UNOS Patient Services at 888.894.6361. UNOS Patient Services can provide information about UNOS, allocation policy and other resources available to you. As always, please feel free to contact your transplant nurse coordinator about your care.

Costs and Insurance

A transplant financial coordinator is here to guide you

The insurance and billing system is challenging to navigate alone. Our transplant financial coordinator is available to help walk you through the process, and answer any questions you may have.

The Organ Transplant Center at Northwestern Medicine works with many private insurance carriers, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, to provide transplant coverage to their members. We will assist you in obtaining pre‐authorization for transplant surgery and transplant‐related procedures.

To speak with the transplant financial coordinator, call 312.926.0072.

Related Resources



  • American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP): AAKP helps kidney patients and their families manage the emotional and social impact of kidney disease.
  • American Kidney Fund: This fund provides direct financial assistance to kidney patients in need and education for those with and at risk for kidney disease.
  • Atlas of Diseases of the Kidney: The online edition from ISN Informatics Commission and NKF Cyber‐Nephrology provides information on kidney disease, treatment and research, including books and PowerPoint presentations.
  • Coalition on DonationThis organization promotes and provides education about organ donation.
  • Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network: This nonprofit works with hospitals and donor families in the northern three‐fourths of Illinois and northwest Indiana. It focuses on recovery of organs and tissue for medical transplantation in the service area, as well as for professional and public education on organ and tissue donation.
  • Home Dialysis Central: Home Dialysis Central educates kidney patients about home dialysis.
  • Kidney School: This interactive, web‐based learning program is designed to help people learn about kidney disease and its treatments, so they can take a more active role in their care.
  • Life OptionsThis program of research, research‐based education, and outreach helps people live long and well with kidney disease.
  • MedlinePlus: This is a trusted source that covers all aspects of organ donation and provides easy access to medical journal articles, extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and the latest health news.
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Part of the National Institutes of Health, this organization is involved in kidney disease research and treatment options.
  • National Kidney Foundation (NKF): This foundation has 50 affiliates dedicated to providing prevention programs, educational services, and materials for kidney patients, transplant recipients, and communities. NKF Affiliates: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
  • National Organ and Tissue Donation InitiativeThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is building a national community of organ sharing to ease the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors.
  • Nephron Information Center: This site includes information and educational links about kidney disease.
  • Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN): OPTN is a unique public‐private partnership that links all of the professionals involved in the donation and transplantation system. Its goals are to increase the supply of donated organs available for transplantation and the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation (PKD): PKD Foundation’s mission is to promote research to find a cure for PKD, and improve the care and treatment of those it affects.
  • The Renal Network 9/10: This network empowers optimal wellness for renal disease patients. 
  • Transplant Living: This is the United Network for Organ Sharing patient education site for all transplant patients.
  • TransWeb: TransWeb’s mission is to offer information about donation and transplantation to the general public. It promotes organ donation and provides transplant families with information specifically about transplant issues.
  • United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS): Through the UNOS Organ Center, organ donors are matched to waiting recipients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through its policies, UNOS ensures that all patients have a fair chance at receiving the organ they need—regardless of age, sex, race, lifestyle, religion, or financial or social status. UNOS members include every transplant program, organ procurement organization, and tissue typing laboratory in the United States.
  • U.S. Transplant—Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR)The SRTR supports the ongoing evaluation of the scientific and clinical status of solid organ transplantation in the United States.
  • Worldwide Kidney Disease CommunityThis online resource brings together people with kidney disease, in a worldwide community dedicated to improving patient quality of life.

Support groups

The following associations offer support groups to help patients and their families through transplantation:


In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.