Since organ transplant surgery was first introduced in the mid-1900s, the number of seriously ill patients waiting for an organ has steadily increased. Currently, there are more than 122,000 people on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) registry waiting for an organ, with more than 5,400 in Illinois alone. Unfortunately, the number of organs available for transplantation has not kept pace with the demand. In 2013, only 22,517 organs from deceased donors were available nationwide.
To lessen this gap, surgeons found a way to transplant organs between two living people. Since the first living donor transplant surgery was performed in 1954, thousands of patients have received life-saving organs from living donors. Kidney is the most common living donor transplant performed since the body can function normally with only one kidney. Living donor liver transplants also are performed, as the liver can regenerate itself to replace the transplanted portion.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Kovler Organ Transplantation Center is one of the best in the Midwest region and is a leader in living donor transplant surgery. Our transplant physicians and nurses have performed more than 2,100 living donor kidney transplants and more than 190 living donor liver transplants.
In 2013, Northwestern Memorial was one of the largest living donor kidney transplant programs in the country, performing 122 such transplants. The benefits of living donor kidney transplants are well-documented; the kidneys from living donors have longer graft survival rates, function better and have fewer complications than kidneys from deceased donors. In 2013, Northwestern Memorial performed 16 adult living donor liver transplants, making ours one of the largest living donor liver programs in the country.
Potential donors must be in relatively good health, both physically and emotionally and have a compatible blood type with the organ recipient. Additionally, kidney donors need to be over the age of 18 and liver donors need to be between 18 and 60 years old. Those who agree to be a living donor do so as a volunteer and find great reward in saving a life.