Deceased Donor Waiting List for Kidney Transplant

One option that the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center considers is a deceased donor.

A deceased donor is a person who has died and been identified as an organ donor. This makes transplantation possible for many people who do not have a suitable living donor.

Your child is not automatically placed on the transplant waiting list at the time end-stage renal disease develops. First, you and your child need to be ready for transplant and a pre-transplant evaluation, set up by the transplant team. Once the evaluation is complete and approved by the team, your child will be considered ready for transplant by the transplant team. Until then your child may need to start and continue dialysis treatment.

Your child will then be placed on the waiting list, a national computerized list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). You will be notified by the transplant team when your child has been placed, or "activated," on the list.

Although there is a national waiting list, most donor kidneys are shared in their local region, depending on how good the donor match is to the potential recipient. If the kidney is a perfect match with a person on the national list, however, it will be offered to that person no matter where he or she is located.

Many factors are considered each time a kidney becomes available such as:

  • Blood type
  • Tissue type
  • Length of time on the waiting list
  • Age of the recipient

Because of the significant impact of a successful kidney transplant on growth and development, it is a national goal to transplant pediatric patients especially quickly.

There is no way to predict how long your child will wait for a new kidney from a deceased donor. The waiting time can be several months to years and depends on:

  • How common your child's blood type and tissue type are
  • Availability of donor kidneys
  • Whether your child has antibodies against foreign tissue in their blood
  • Age at the time of listing. Children listed before turning 18 years old get special consideration.

Your child can be listed for deceased donor kidney transplantation at several centers. While this may improve the chances of getting a kidney, it can also complicate your child's care before or after transplantation.

In the Meantime

The most important thing your child can do while waiting for a kidney is to stay as healthy as possible. This will give your child the best chance for a successful transplant outcome. You should follow your child’s dialysis schedule, diet and fluid restrictions, and make sure your child takes medications as prescribed.

It is very important that you maintain regular contact with the transplant coordinator to keep the transplant team informed of any changes in your child's medical condition, such as illness or hospitalization, which may impact your child's ability to undergo transplant surgery. 

Because a deceased donor kidney can become available at any time, it is essential that the Pediatric Kidney Transplant team be able to reach you 24 hours a day. If you do not have a pager or cell phone of your own, a transplant pager can usually be provided to you for this purpose.

It may also be helpful to have telephone numbers of family members or friends who know where you are. It is very important that you keep your transplant coordinator informed of things such as changes in your phone number, plans to be away on vacation, etc., so that you do not risk missing the call for a kidney.

Since there is a time limit to how long the kidney can be stored in a special solution once it has been removed from the donor, you will need to be able to come to the hospital as soon as you have been notified that a kidney is available for your child.

Upon admission to the hospital, your child will have a thorough physical exam to ensure that he / she is not actively sick in any way. An illness could put your child at risk for surgery or anesthesia.

Your child will also have preoperative blood tests, and a final crossmatch will be performed between your child and the donor. The crossmatch will determine whether your child has antibodies that may react against the donor. A negative crossmatch (no reaction) is necessary to proceed.

These test results will take several hours. In the meantime, your child will receive dialysis, if necessary. If there are problems with any of these test results, the transplant may be canceled. If not, the transplant surgery will proceed once the operating room and surgical team are ready.

Last Updated 06/2015