Kidney Care and Transplant Services

Paired Kidney Exchange

When potential kidney donors cannot donate to their intended recipients because of mismatched blood types or tissue incompatibility, they can enter the donor exchange program and donate to another person, which will allow their intended recipient to receive a kidney from another donor.



Once a donor and recipient are approved for the transplant, they join a private registry of other pairs of donors and recipients who are not compatible with each other. A sophisticated computer program then matches these donors and recipients to people with whom they are compatible.

Donor exchange can also be started by a non-directed donor (someone who donates anonymously without having a specific recipient). This situation starts a donor chain.


What Registry does University of Washington Medical Center use?

There are currently six major groups organizing kidney exchanges across the United States. The University of Washington belongs to the National Kidney Registry.

Is there additional testing needed for Donor Exchange? 

Living kidney donors and transplant recipients participating in the donor exchange undergo the same medical evaluations as traditional living donation. 

Will I have to travel for the transplant or donation?

 The donor kidney may be given to someone locally or to someone far away. If a donor matches with a recipient across the country, the donor may travel to that transplant center, the recipient may come to the donor transplant center, or the kidney may be shipped from the donor’s center to the recipient’s center.

Does a donor have to give a kidney before their recipient receives a kidney?

No. Typically, the donation and transplant happen at the same time. There are alternate options, which can be discussed with your physicians.

How long does it take to find a match once the donor and recipient are added ot the NKR?

The average wait time is about 10 months. How quickly a match can be found for a potential recipient can depend on blood type and whether the recipient has a high level of antibodies against human tissue.

If you would like to participate in the National Kidney Registry or have any questions, please contact the University of Washington Medical Center at 206-598-3627.

More information about living donation can be found on the following websites: