The Gift of Life: An In-Depth Look at Paired Kidney Donation

Paired exchange kidney donation can save kidney failure patients' lives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

Four patients recently participated in a first for one Texas hospital. In a potentially lifesaving act, these four patients engaged in a paired exchange kidney donation.

On average, 21 people in the United States die every day waiting for an organ transplant. According the the US Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 124,000 people need a lifesaving organ transplant right now. The demand for organs far exceeds the supply.

Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national transplant waiting list. Many may not be aware that there is another option: living donation.

Living donation is when a healthy person donates a live, working organ to someone in need. A living donor can be a parent, child, husband, wife, friend or complete stranger.

Since 1954, when the first successful living donor transplant took place in Boston, more than 50,000 people have donated a healthy kidney to someone facing kidney failure. Living donors give the gift of life to the recipient, allowing thousands who face kidney failure the option of living a longer, healthier life.

Generally speaking, there are three types of living kidney donor options: direct donation, paired exchange donation and good Samaritan donation.

With direct donation, the donor usually knows the recipient and donates directly to that individual. If the donor is compatible, his or her kidney can be transplanted directly into the recipient. However, direct donors are often incompatible or poorly compatible with their intended recipient.

If a donor is not compatible with a recipient, the donor may choose to participate in a paired exchange. Also known as a “kidney swap,” a paired exchange donation occurs when a donor is incompatible with the recipient, so he or she exchanges kidneys with another donor-recipient pair that is compatible. In a paired exchange, two live donor transplants occur.

With good Samaritan donation, a kidney from a living person is transplanted into a complete stranger. This often initiates a chain of transplants. According to the National Kidney Registry, chains are revolutionizing the paired exchange process by facilitating better donor-recipient matches.

dailyRx News reporter Rachelle Grossman has the heartwarming story of the four patients who recently took part in Scott & White Memorial Hospital's first paired kidney exchange in Temple, TX — and how they are now bonded through the gift of life.

Check out the dailyRx News video for the full story.

Review Date: 
June 1, 2015