Donor kidneys come from two sources: deceased organ donors or living donors. Deceased donors are people who have suffered brain death after a head trauma or medical problem in the brain such as bleeding.  The families of these patients make the generous decision to donate their organs. Patients who are on the transplant wait list are waiting for organs from deceased donors. It is not uncommon for patients to wait many years for a deceased donor kidney.

Kidneys can also come from living donors. There are three types of living donors:

  • Living related donors (LRD) are donors who are blood relatives of the recipient. Usually these are parents, children or siblings.
  • Living unrelated donors (LURD) are not blood related and are usually spouses or friends of the recipient.
  • A third type of living donor is called an altruistic donor or non-directed donor. These donors volunteer to donate a kidney to any person in need without knowledge of the recipient. In these cases, the transplant wait list or donor paired exchange can be used to select a recipient.