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The first successful program in live kidney donation began in Boston at The Peter Brent Brigham Hospital in 1954. A young man in his twenties donated a kidney to his identical twin brother without the need for immunosuppressive mediations. There were no such medications at the time so the donor had to be an exact match as in the case of identical twins. As you can see below, the pace of developments in the area of living kidney donation started out slow but has rapidly progressed since the mid-1990's.

Over the past 50 years, advances in immunosuppressive therapies available to prevent rejection of transplanted organs have brought transplantation to the point where one no longer needs to be a blood relative to donate. Today, living kidney donors are relatives, friends, spouses, or even complete strangers, as in the case of altruistic donors.

Although most living organ donations involve the kidney, living donors can also donate a part of their lung, liver, pancreas or intestine for the purpose of transplantation. Although these areas of living donation are less well established as compared to living kidney donation, they have also been developed due to the shortage of deceased donor organs available for transplantation.

From the history outlined above, you can see that living donation has existed for more than a half of a century. The risks and benefits of living kidney donation are clearly defined, and the surgical risk is equivalent to that of any other general surgery procedure such as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder). The advent of minimally invasive surgery enables hospital stays of 1 to 2 days, and most donors are able to return to work within a few weeks of the surgery.

Thanks to all of the advances in the past half-century, outcomes for both transplant recipients and their transplanted organs have increased dramatically, as can be seen in the graphic below. From 1963 to 2009, one-year patient survival has increased from 10% to 99%, while one-year kidney graft survival has increased from 7% to 96%!

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