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 122,000 people on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)* registry waiting for an organ, with more than 5,400 in Illinois alone.

Unfortunately, the number of organs available for transplantation has not kept pace with the demand. In 2013, only 22,517 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, thousands of patients have received lifesaving organs from living donors.

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 Kovler Organ Transplantation Center is a leader in living donor transplant surgery. Our transplant physicians and nurses have performed more than 2,100 living donor kidney transplants and more than 190 living donor liver transplants.

In 2013, Northwestern Memorial Hospital was one of the largest living donor kidney transplant programs in the country, performing 122 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 2013, Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed 16 adult living donor liver transplants, making ours one of the largest living donor liver programs in the country.

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.

Initiative Aimed at Educating Latino Community About Organ Donation

A new initiative at Northwestern Memorial Hospital is aimed at educating the Latino community about organ donation. NBC 5's Anayeli Ruiz has more.

Watch now

Father Donated Kidney to Ailing Daughter

One year ago, a father gave his daughter the greatest gift of all -- a second chance at life. CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot shares their story.

Watch now

Gurnee Prayer Service Connects Man with Kidney Donor

Heidi Houdek and David Young were strangers a few months ago attending different services. But in May, Young shared with members he needed a kidney transplant.


Watch now

U.S. News Sits In as Surgeons Carry Out an 8-Person Kidney Exchange


Four people received new leases on life via the transplant 'chain' at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Article features John Friedewald, MD and Joseph Leventhal, MD.

Read Full Article

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 Initiative*The 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.
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