Kidneys can come from deceased donors and from three different types of living donors. 

Types of living donors include:

  • Living related donors, who are related by blood to the person who needs a kidney.
  • Living unrelated donors, who are not related by blood to the person who needs a kidney. This can include a family member or friend.
  • Altruistic donors, who give a kidney but let the medical team decide who should receive it. Altruistic donors and patients may never even meet each other.

Living kidney donors must be in good physical and mental health, and meet our living kidney donor selection guidelines. 

What is a paired kidney exchange?

Sometimes a kidney donor and recipient are not compatible. To help in situations like this, Cincinnati Children’s offers an option called a “paired kidney exchange,” or “kidney swap.” Essentially, donor and recipient pairs are matched with other pairs of people in the same situation.  For example, imagine that you want to donate your kidney to a nephew, but you are not compatible due to blood type or blood vessel anatomy. If a compatible pair is found, you would donate your kidney to the other donor’s recipient, and that other donor would donate to your nephew. Paired kidney exchanges can involve many donor and recipient pairs, who may live in different parts of the country.