The pros of living kidney donation include the following:
- Gift of life – By choosing to become a kidney donor, you’re giving the priceless gift of life to someone. By being their living kidney donor, you’re shortening the time they spend in sickness while on a kidney wait list, and increase their time living a healthy life. At the same time, you’re increasing the likelihood of successful kidney transplantation, since survival rates are higher when the kidney comes from a living donor. Additionally, you’ll be helping another wait-listed patient, since your donation will allow another person on the wait list to receive a deceased donor kidney.
- Minimally-invasive procedure – Lahey performs laparoscopic surgery for kidney donors. This means that we make several small incisions to insert a camera and surgical tools to remove the kidney, instead of traditional large incision. This reduces discomfort, speeds up the recovery process and leaves smaller scars than a conventional open surgery. Most kidney donors are discharged from the hospital in 2 days, and they are expected to return to their normal daily activities within weeks.
- Low financial burden – The kidney donor pays nothing in medical bills. All donation-related costs are covered by the recipient’s insurance company. This includes evaluation exams, hospitalization, surgery, recovery after the transplant and donation-related follow-up care, such as clinical assessments and lab work. The only costs incurred by the donor are time spent missing work, lodging (if you’re not a local resident and need to spend the night nearby) and transportation costs. We offer discounted transportation options in certain cities. Prescription medications after hospital discharge will not be covered by the recipient’s insurance, so if a donor is uninsured, our financial coordinator can assist with this hardship.
- No life expectancy changes – Donating a kidney does not affect a person’s life expectancy. On the contrary, a 1997 study concluded that people who donate a kidney have been found to outlive the average population. Twenty years after donating, 85% of kidney donors were still alive, while the expected survival rate was 66%. This phenomenon may be explained by the fact that only healthy people are approved to become donors, or perhaps donors take additional health precautions after donating a kidney.
The cons of living kidney donation include the following:
- Possible complications – Kidney donation is considered a low-risk procedure, but this does not mean that it is risk free. Complications occur less than 5% 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 often short-term and can be managed by our transplant experts. Our team will teach you how to look for symptoms of complications during your recovery.
- Possible death – The complications mentioned previously may result in the donor’s death. However, these occurrences are extremely rare. The National Kidney Registry reports that in the U.S., only 3 deaths occur out of 10,000 live donor transplants (a 0.03% mortality rate).
- Lifestyle changes – In preparation for kidney donation, you will be asked to make some modifications to your lifestyle to ensure your health and that of the organ you will be donating. You’ll be required to attend all your clinic visits and go through the time-consuming evaluation process, which may affect your work schedule. You’ll also need to abstain from recreational drugs and tobacco. Moderate alcohol consumption is allowed until six weeks before surgery. Donors will be able to return to all normal activities after recovery.
- Recovery and pain – After kidney transplant surgery, donors will inevitably go through a recovery period where they feel pain and discomfort. They are expected to be walking the day of surgery, and are discharged after 2 or 3 days. Kidney donors may return to work between 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery, and will gradually resume their activities.