After meeting all requirements for kidney donation, you must agree to abide by our guidelines leading up to surgery. This is to ensure that you are in good condition for donating your kidney.
If you’re a smoker, you’ll be asked to stop smoking. If you drink alcohol, even in moderation, you’ll be instructed to abstain until you have fully recovered from surgery and receive clearance from your surgeon. You also may need to stop taking certain medications.
The Kidney Donor Surgical Procedure
Living kidney donor surgery is typically scheduled in the morning. You and the kidney recipient will be admitted into the hospital’s pre-op area two hours before surgery, where your family may accompany you. An IV will be placed, and your abdominal area may need to be shaved.
When you’re taken into the operating room, your family will be asked to wait in the surgical waiting area, where the kidney donor coordinator will discuss a plan to keep them updated on the progress of your surgery.
Our expert anesthesiologists will administer sedation through the IV to put you to sleep. Once you are asleep, they will insert a tube in your throat that will connect to a machine that helps you breathe (ventilator). They will also insert a tube (a Foley catheter) into your urethra to allow urine to drain during the surgery.
We prefer a laparoscopic approach over the traditional open donor surgery because it’s a minimally invasive procedure. A laparoscopy consists of three small (¼-inch) incisions through which we insert a camera and other robotic tools to detach the kidney. Once detached, the kidney can be removed through a 3-inch incision below the waistline.
Hospital Discharge after Kidney Donation Surgery
Your total hospital stay will generally be two days. You’ll be able to walk within 24 hours following the kidney donation, but you won’t be discharged until you can take pain medication by mouth, you can urinate on your own, and you have completely recovered from the anesthesia. You will also need to demonstrate acceptable kidney function and be tolerating an oral diet.
Kidney Donation Recovery Timeline
Here is what you can generally expect during your recovery as a kidney donor:
- In 2-3 days: You’ll be discharged from hospital.
- In 14 days: You’ll be able to drive a car, after clearance from the transplant team.
- In 6 weeks: You can participate in low-impact sports (but no swimming or hot tubs for 8 weeks). You can lift up to 20 pounds (such as a baby, groceries or a cat).
- In 6 to 12 weeks: You may return to work and resume all of your normal activities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Live Kidney Donation
A: Live donor kidney transplantation is a procedure in which a living donor gives one of his or her kidneys to a person in need of a kidney transplant.
A: Candidates, or recipients, are those individuals with kidney disease who have been accepted and listed as appropriate deceased donor kidney transplant recipients (recipients of kidneys from deceased donors).
A: Living kidney donors must meet certain criteria, such as having a compatible blood type and being between the ages of 18 and 65. They must also have no serious kidney problems or medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.
A: After initial screening blood work is received and reviewed, a potential donor is scheduled for a consult with a transplant nurse and surgeon. This consult involves a discussion of the procedure itself, as well as an opportunity for the donor to ask any questions.
A: Simultaneously, two separate surgical teams perform the kidney donor and recipient surgeries. As one team works on preparing the recipient for the kidney, the other is working on removing one of the donor’s kidneys.
A: Our family waiting room is staffed by a nurse liaison who will provide frequent updates to the families of the recipient and donor throughout the surgery.
A: The average donor will be in the hospital for 2 to 3 days.
A: There will be no changes to their diet, but they should drink at least two liters of water daily for the first month after surgery. They may resume sexual activities and are allowed to consume alcohol in moderation as soon as they receive clearance from their surgeon.
A: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) requires donors to have follow-up appointments 2 weeks after surgery, then again at 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months. Lahey also recommends you get physical checkups every year after the 24-month follow-up appointment.