Receiving a deceased donor offer

How long is the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney?

People on the transplant waiting list in NI can expect to wait three and a half years on average for a kidney transplant. But this depends on a number of factors including:

  • their tissue type
  • blood group
  • the amount of antibodies they have to other tissue types.

The longer someone has been waiting the more likely it is that they will get an offer, but occasionally it can be very hard to find a suitable kidney so some people wait for many years for a transplant. The deceased donor waiting list can be thought of as the combination of a bus queue and a lottery – if you are in the bus queue for long enough it will eventually be your turn to get on the bus, but the lottery aspect means that sometimes someone much further down the queue will get a call and hop on the bus, and occasionally people get to the top of the queue but still have to wait quite a long time.

How is someone selected to receive a deceased donor kidney?

All patients requiring a transplant in the UK are registered with NHS Blood & Transplant and they allocate the kidney to the most appropriate person.

If a kidney is offered for transplantation then it is first considered for children who are waiting for a transplant. If the kidney is not a match for any of the children on the list then adults who are on the list are considered next. All the patients waiting for a transplant in the UK are then ranked by NHS Blood & Transplant based on a combination of:

  • Waiting time on the list
  • Match of the kidney for the recipient
  • Age
  • Location of the recipient in relation to the donor
  • Recipient’s tissue type
  • Recipient’s blood group

A certain number of points are allocated for each and the person with the highest total points is then offered the kidney.

What happens if I’m called for a deceased donor kidney?

Usually you’ll get a call from one of the nurses on our transplant ward. This can come at any time (day or night) so it’s really important that we have up-to-date phone numbers for you. Time is very important in deceased donor transplantation so you may be asked to come up to the transplant ward as soon as possible.

Once you arrive at the transplant ward you’ll be seen by one of the doctors and one of the nurses. They will go through your medical history and do a routine examination to ensure that you’re in good health. Some bloods tests, a heart tracing (ECG) and chest x-ray will usually also be performed.

One of the blood samples taken is for a cross-match test. This is the test to confirm that the donor kidney will be a match for you and can take up to six hours to complete. Once the result of the cross-match test is available you’ll be told if the transplant is going ahead and be talked through the procedure by one of the transplant surgeons.

Because time is important, it is usual that several patients are brought up to the transplant ward as potential recipients (back-up patients). If tests show the kidney is not suitable for the first matched patient, it will go to one of the other potential recipients.