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Paired Kidney Exchange/Kidney Swap

Paired kidney exchange — or kidney swap — is a transplantation option for patients with a living donor who is not compatible for transplant.

The donor may be a blood relative or friend who wants to donate, but they do not match the recipient. Transplantation is still possible through paired kidney exchange, which connects pairs of compatible recipients and donors. Paired kidney exchange can be between two pairs of people — or more.

Kidney Swap/Paired Kidney Exchange

  • Donor 1 gives to Recipient 2
  • Donor 2 gives to Recipient 1

3-Way Kidney Exchange

  • Donor 1 gives to Recipient 2
  • Donor 2 gives to Recipient 3
  • Donor 3 gives to Recipient 1

All of Us are Combined for the Rest of Our Lives

Kidney swaps allow recipients to receive better-matched kidneys and help other kidney transplant recipients who otherwise would continue to wait for a matched donor.

In November 2018, Luis Villalobos was prepared to give his father, Pedro, a kidney — but they weren’t a match.

“They gave us hope when they said, ‘We got Option B,’ which is we could swap,” said Luis Villalobos.

At the same time, Tom Sweet was set to donate a kidney to his old high school buddy, Chris Moore. It turned, Luis was a match for Chris, and Tom was a match for Pedro. Dr. Enrico Benedetti, head of the Department of Surgery at UI Health, asked the pairs about a kidney swap.

“I said, ‘As long as [Chris] gets a kidney … I don’t care how many people we do it with!” Tom said.

The pairs all had successful transplants — and were home for Thanksgiving!

“We got [three families] — all of us are combined for the rest of our lives,” said Chris.


Blood Typing & Kidney Donor Compatibility

Tests will be done to determine if the recipient and donor are compatible for transplant surgery - blood typing and tissue typing. Blood typing is the first test and determines if the pair's blood is compatible.

Kidney recipients and donors must have compatible blood types to undergo transplantation. Like a blood transfusion, the transplantation depends on which type is donating and receiving.

Donor compatibilities

  • Donor, blood type A: Can donate to recipients with blood types A and AB.
  • Donor, blood type B: Can donate to recipients with blood types B and AB.
  • Donor, blood type AB: Can donate to recipients with blood type AB only.
  • Donor, blood type O: Can donate to recipients with blood types, A, B, AB, and O.

Recipient compatibilities

  • Recipient, blood type A: Can receive a kidney from blood types A and O.
  • Recipient, blood type B: Can receive a kidney from blood types B and O.
  • Recipient, blood type AB: Can receive a kidney from blood types A, B, AB, and O.
  • Recipient, blood type O: Can receive a kidney from blood type O only.

If the recipient and donor blood types are not compatible, the donor will not be able to donate a kidney to the recipient, but the pair would be able to participate in a paired kidney exchange with another recipient/donor pair.

Learn More About Paired Kidney Exchange

New patients interested in learning more about kidney transplantation should call 312.996.6771. To contact the Kidney Transplant Clinic, please call 312.996.8330.