About the Surgery

The surgeon will determine which surgical approach is best based on the donor’s anatomy and the CT testing results.

Most living kidney donation surgery is performed via a minimally invasive laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, a procedure that greatly improves the surgical experience for the donor.

Only two to three one-inch incisions are made in the abdomen and a three-inch incision near the belly button. The surgeon then uses thin tools and a digital camera to remove the kidney through the larger incision. 

The kidney then will be taken to an adjacent operating room where it will be implanted into the recipient.

In some cases it may be necessary to use a smaller open donor nephrectomy because of a patient’s anatomy. In this approach, a four- to five-inch incision is done on the right or left side to remove the kidney.

Both surgeries are performed under general anesthesia in a safe environment of the operating room suites.

Surgery times may vary but are generally completed in two to three hours.

After the Surgery

After surgery, the donor will stay in the post-anesthesia recovery area until they are awake and stable enough to go to the urology unit of the hospital.

Donors will be given pain medication through an intravenous line to keep your pain under control.

On the urology unit, the team who provides your care has been specially trained in the management of transplant donors and recipients.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

Our goal is to help you get back to your job and the rest of your life as fast as possible.

Minimally invasive surgery speeds recovery for kidney donors. Although many laparoscopic procedures take about the same amount of time in surgery as an open-incision surgery, the recovery time is reduced because you do not have to recuperate from a large incision.

Other benefits of minimally invasive surgeries include less scarring, reduced blood loss and shorter hospital stay.

Hospital recovery is usually only two to three days, and most donors are able to return to work within four to six weeks after the surgery.

Risks of Living Kidney Donation Surgery

The overall risks for a living kidney donor are considered to be low and about the same as the general population who have not donated a kidney.

Living donation does not change life expectancy for the donor, who can continue to lead a normal life after recovery from the surgery. Studies have shown that one kidney is enough to remove wastes and excess fluid from the blood to keep the body healthy.

People with one kidney may be at a greater risk of high blood pressure or reduced kidney function. After donation, it is vital that the donor’s health is monitored regularly.

The transplant center is required to report information about the donor’s health to the United Network for Organ Sharing at six months, 12 months, and 24 months post-donation. You will be required to commit to follow-up care with either the transplant center nephrologist or your primary physician.

In the unlikely event that a living donor ever needs a kidney later in life, they are given higher priority on the deceased donor list based on the current allocation system.

It is important to realize that although living donor kidney transplants are highly successful, problems may occur. Sometimes, the kidney is rejected or the original disease that caused kidney failure may return and cause the transplanted kidney to fail.

The transplant surgeon and nephrologist will discuss risks in further detail during your evaluation appointment.