Benefits of Kidney Transplants
The specialists at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center can help you understand the benefits and risks of live donor kidney transplantation. It is important that you are aware of both the benefits and risks of this procedure.
Giving the Gift of Life
By becoming a live donor, you shorten the time a recipient spends on the kidney transplant waiting list [link to new Transplantation > Kidney Transplant Waiting List page]. You also increase the likelihood of successful transplantation because survival rates are higher when the kidney transplant comes from a live donor. Additionally, you help another wait-listed patient because your donation vacates the recipient’s spot on the list for the next person when a deceased donor’s kidney becomes available.
We perform laparoscopic surgery for kidney donors. This means we make several small incisions to insert a camera and surgical tools to remove the kidney, instead of traditional large incisions. This reduces discomfort, speeds up the recovery process and leaves smaller scars than conventional open surgery. Most kidney donors go home from the hospital in two days and can return to their normal daily activities within weeks.
No Life Expectancy Changes
Donating a kidney does not affect a person’s life expectancy. On the contrary, studies show that people who donate a kidney outlive the average population. Twenty years after donating, 85 percent of kidney donors were still alive, while the expected survival rate was 66 percent. This may be because only healthy people are approved to become donors, or perhaps donors take additional health precautions after donating a kidney.
Low Financial Burden
The entire donation process is typically paid for by the recipient’s insurance company. This includes all pre-transplant evaluations, surgery, in-hospital recovery and follow-up care. The recipient’s insurance company may not cover some items, such as pain medications, so our financial coordinator helps you find out how to pay for them. Your other costs may include time spent missing work, lodging and transportation. We offer discounted transportation options in certain cities.
Risks of Kidney Transplants
Kidney donation is a low-risk procedure, but this does not mean that it is risk-free. While complications happen less than 5 percent of the time, as with any surgical procedure, there is a small possibility of infection, anesthesia complications, bleeding, blood clots, hernias or post-operative pneumonia. These complications are usually short-term, and our transplant experts can manage them. Our team teaches you how to look for symptoms of complications during your recovery.
Complications may result in a donor’s death. However, this is extremely rare. The National Kidney Registry reports that in the United States, only three deaths occur out of 10,000 live donor transplants (0.03 percent mortality rate).
In preparation for kidney donation, you may need to make some modifications to your lifestyle. These changes include avoiding recreational drugs and tobacco. You may consume alcohol in moderation up to six weeks before surgery.
Pain is normal after surgery. You should be able to walk the day of surgery and can go home after two or three days. Kidney donors may return to work two to four weeks after the surgery and gradually resume normal activities.