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Living donor organ transplantation

Since organ transplant surgery was first introduced in the mid 1900s, the number of seriously ill patients waiting for an organ has steadily increased. Currently, there are more than 106,000 people on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) registry waiting for an organ, with more than 4,000 in Illinois alone.

Unfortunately, the number of organs available for transplantation has not kept pace with the demand. In 2021, only 34,813 organs from deceased donors were available nationwide.

To lessen this gap, surgeons found a way to transplant organs between two living people. Since the first living donor transplant surgery was performed in 1954, more than 6,500 patients have received lifesaving organs from living donors at Northwestern Medicine.

Kidney is the most common living donor transplant performed, since the body can function normally with only one kidney. Living donor liver transplants also are performed, as the liver can regenerate itself to replace the transplanted portion.

Watch Alberto and Soledad talk about their transplant experience and learn about the Living Donor Kidney Program from our medical and surgical team.

Why Northwestern Medicine?

The Organ Transplant Center is a leader in living donor transplant surgery. Our transplant physicians and nurses have performed more than 2,900 living donor kidney transplants and more than 190 living donor liver transplants.

In 2021, Northwestern Memorial Hospital was one of the largest living donor kidney transplant programs in the midwest and top 10 in the country, performing 99 such transplants. The benefits of living donor kidney transplants are well-documented; the kidneys from living donors have longer graft survival rates, function better and have fewer complications than kidneys from deceased donors.

In 2021, Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed 11 adult living donor liver transplants, making ours one of the largest living donor liver programs in the midwest.

Potential donors must be in relatively good health, both physically and emotionally, and have a compatible blood type with the organ recipient. Additionally, kidney donors need to be over the age of 18 and liver donors need to be between 18 and 60 years old. Those who agree to be a living donor do so as a volunteer and find great reward in saving a life.

Transplant in the News

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Learn more about our transplant services, expertise and patients though:

  • Patient stories
  • Physician interviews
  • News Archive

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    Interested in being a living kidney donor?

    Start the process by completing a Health History Questionnaire.

    Educational Videos for Living Donor Organ Transplantation

    Videos for living organ transplantation donors and recipients.

    50 Years of Kidney Transplants

    Learn about our living donor kidney program, kidney paired donation, innovative therapies, biomarker development, and more.

    A Medical First: Karin's Story


    When routine blood work showed Karin's kidney's were failing, her sister unhesitatingly decided to donate her kidney. What happens next was a medical first.

    Physicians studying an image for second opinion.

    Looking for a Second Opinion?

    It's vital that you're comfortable with your treatment decision and have confidence in your doctor. For these reasons, a second opinion with another specialist can help you make smart treatment decisions.

    Related Resources



    • Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network: Website of the not-for-profit organ procurement organization that works with hospitals and donor families in the northern three-fourths of Illinois and northwest Indiana. The organization is responsible for the 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.
    • US 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.
    • 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).
    • Coalition on Donation: The organization promotes organ donation and provides education about it.
    • 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 Organ and Tissue Donation InitiativeThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is undertaking this initiative to ease the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors by building a national community of organ sharing.
    • 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.