Types of kidney transplant

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead


A person can receive a transplant kidney from:

  • a living donor
  • a deceased donor.

Once your assessment is done, you will be booked in for your transplant surgery (if you are receiving a transplant from a living donor) or listed on the transplant list (if you are receiving a transplant from a deceased donor). 

Living donor

A living kidney donation is a donation from someone over 18 years of age such as a close relative, usually a mother, father, brother or sister. We will also consider other relatives (such as an aunt or uncle or a grandparent) or close family friends.

Living donor transplant is encouraged. If you are a match for a relative or friend, you will know exactly where your organ is coming from and will have time to prepare for your transplant surgery. In addition, research shows that the person who receives a living donation transplant has fewer problems and that the transplanted kidney works for longer. 

If you have a willing living donor, they will go through a full assessment at an adult transplant program to make sure that they and their kidneys are healthy. Their assessment is similar to yours; it will help the team find out about the person’s health to make sure that it is safe for them to give a kidney.​​

For more information, visit this page about living donation on the Kidney Foundation’s website.

What happens if a willing donor is not a match?

Sometimes a person is willing to donate their kidney, but they may not be a match for you, even if they are in your immediate family. This can happen if they have the wrong blood group or they are a “positive crossmatch“ (your blood reacts to their blood by producing antibodies during a test).

In these cases, both of you may be able to take part in the kidney paired donation (KPD) program.

This program allows your donor to give a kidney to someone else for whom they are a match. In turn, that person’s donor would give a kidney to you.

This is a Canada-wide program (through Canadian Blood Services​) to help increase the chance for people to receive a transplant. You can ask your transplant team for more information.

Deceased donor

A deceased kidney donation means that the kidney comes from someone who has died in an intensive care unit in a hospital after an unexpected event (such as a car accident or a serious fall). The family of that person must consent to donate their kidneys.

Doctors will only remove a deceased person’s organ when:

  • they are satisfied that the person is ”brain dead”, in other words, will only be able to breathe with the help of a machine
  • the person’s family gives their written consent to organ donation.

As you can imagine, it is not possible to plan a deceased kidney donation ahead of time. So when a suitable kidney becomes available, the person waiting for the transplant needs to get to the hospital immediately.

Choosing between a living or a deceased donor transplant

During your transplant assessment, your transplant team will talk to you and your family about which type of transplant is right for you. They will explain the differences between a living donor transplant and a deceased donor transplant.

Here are some things that your transplant team will discuss with you.

A​dvantages of living donor ​transplant​​ ​Disadvantages of living donor transplant​
  • Kidneys from living donors have fewer problems and nearly always last longer.
  • Donor surgery is considered major surgery. If you get a kidney from a close relative (your immediate family for instance), there will be two people in your family, instead of one, who need to recover after the surgery. However, donors do recover and go on to live normal healthy lives.
  • You may not have to wait ​as long for your transplant.
  • If one of your parents becomes a donor, they may need to arrange alternative care for other children in your family for a short time.
  • You will know when your surgery will happen ahead of time and can plan for the transplant more easily.
  • Donors need to take about six weeks off work after their surgery. This could lead to money issues, depending on the donor’s employer. Ask about donor compensation programs if this is a concern.
Advantages of deceased donor transplant​​ Disadvantages of deceased donor transplant​
  • ​More family members may be able to support you if there is no close relative living donor recovering from surgery.
  • You never know when a kidney will become available to you. It could happen at a very inconvenient time. If you are not already on dialysis, you may have to go on dialysis while you are waiting for a kidney to become available.
  • A deceased donor kidney may not last as long or work as well as a living donor kidney.
  • You may need to wait a long time for a deceased donor kidney.

Last updated: November 30th 2017