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Deceased Kidney Donation

Most of the kidney transplants in the US come from deceased kidney donors. Deceased donors are individuals who die from accidents or other causes, and their next of kin consent to organ donation. The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney in Southern California can range from three to eight years, depending on blood type.

Deceased Donor Waiting Lists

The federal government, through the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, oversees transplantation, including distribution of deceased donor organs. The HHS Department contracts with an organization called the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which administers the waiting list for deceased donor organs. UNOS is overseen by transplant experts including transplant surgeons and representatives from organ-procurement agencies, patients and the donors' families. By consensus, the organs are allocated based on the principles of equal access and social utility.

Distribution is based on a point system that includes:

  • Length of waiting time on list
  • Blood type and genetic match with potential donor
  • Age (for pediatric patients only, who may be significantly disadvantaged by long waiting periods)

About the Surgery

Surgeons place the donated kidney in the pelvis through an incision, attaching the new organ to the recipient's blood vessels and bladder. Unlike living donation where the kidney comes directly from the donor to the recipient, kidneys from deceased donors are often injured by the death and preservation processes, so a delay in kidney function may occur. Occasionally, dialysis is continued until the deceased donor kidney begins to function. When dialysis is needed, deceased donor kidneys may take up to two weeks to begin functioning. With living donation, delay in kidney function is uncommon and function may be restored almost immediately, like turning a switch from off to on.