Kidney donation surgery
While most people have two kidneys, people who have donated a kidney can lead active and full lives.
Kidney donor surgery is considered a very low-risk surgery with few major complications.
Laparoscopic surgery is the preferred way to do kidney donor surgeries. Laparoscopic surgery takes longer than open surgery, but donors will have less pain and faster recovery time.
You’ll be put under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make small cuts into your abdomen. Using a tiny camera and slim surgical instruments, they’ll detach your kidney, veins, arteries, and ureter and remove them.
Your surgeon will make an incision about eight to 10 inches long on the right or left side of your abdomen. They will cut through skin and muscle to remove your kidney. Your lowest rib may need to be removed, but this won’t cause extra pain or disability.
After surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital for about five to 10 days. Your incision may fully heal in about four weeks. Internal healing may take up to six months.
You’ll need to have regular checkups in the first two years after your surgery. Follow your care team’s instructions for follow-up visits.
Donating a kidney to someone in need
Considering a kidney donation can be challenging. Talk to your healthcare provider or the transplant team to help you better understand what’s involved in donor surgery and how it may affect you.
Can you live with one kidney?
Many kidney donors live a regular life after kidney donation. Donation doesn’t affect the function or survival of your remaining kidney. Instead, your remaining kidney may increase in capacity by an average of 22.4%. This is known as “compensatory growth".
You may want to take some steps to ensure the health of your remaining kidney:
- Drink enough fluids every day.
- There’s no specific diet needed after kidney donation, but you should maintain a healthy weight and overall health.
- Be careful with prescription drugs, as some can be bad for your kidneys. Remind your prescribing healthcare professional that you have donated a kidney.
- Check with your doctor before starting any new supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications.
- Avoid contact sports that may lead to kidney injury.
- Get yearly medical checkups so that your doctor can monitor the health of your kidney.
Can donating a kidney shorten your life?
Compared to the general population, kidney donors have similar life spans. One research study even found that kidney donors may live longer than nondonors.
When can you return to normal activities?
Most people can return to regular life within a few months. You may be able to return to work between two to eight weeks after your surgery, depending on your job.
Your doctor may restrict you to lifting no more than 10 pounds in the first eight weeks after surgery, and no more than 20 pounds until week 12.
For more strenuous activities like competitive sports and core abdominal exercises, you may have to wait until six months after your surgery.
Does kidney donation affect pregnancy?
The risk of pregnancy complications is no different from nondonors. But you may be at a slightly higher risk of developing preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy (gestational hypertension). Preeclampsia is a serious high blood pressure condition that can happen during pregnancy.
Are there benefits for donors?
While the removal of an organ doesn’t seem like it would improve your quality of life, there can be benefits to donors as well. Knowing that your kidney helped save a person's life is one major benefit.
In the US, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. The waiting time for a deceased donor organ can be many years. As a living organ donor, you help shorten the wait.
Many donors say that they have an excellent quality of life after kidney donation. Nearly all of the donors would choose to donate again.
Some donors may have given up unhealthy habits to be able to donate. This includes excessive drinking, smoking, or unhealthy eating. Some are motivated to continue with a healthy lifestyle after their donor surgery.
Health Resources & Services Administration: "Organ Donation Statistics."
Journal of Nephrology: "Living kidney donors' long-term psychological status and health behavior after nephrectomy - a retrospective study."
Loma Linda University Health: "Living Kidney Donor Program."?
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation: "Risks in life after living kidney donation."
Transplant Proceedings: "Compensatory Hypertrophy After Living Donor Nephrectomy."
Transplantation: "Kidney donors live longer."
UCLA Health: "Adult Kidney Transplant."
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Living Kidney Donor Handbook."
University of Wisconsin Transplant Program: "Living Kidney Donation: The Surgery."
UTSouthwestern Medical Center: "What potential donors need to know about living kidney donation."
Top Can You Live a Normal Life After Donating a Kidney Related Articles
Can a Person Recover From Kidney Failure?Recovery from kidney failure varies, depending on whether the condition is chronic or acute. Learn about renal failure treatment options.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)Chronic kidney disease (CKD), or chronic kidney failure, is slow and progressive loss of kidney function over several years. CKD is a long-term condition where the kidneys do not work effectively.
cordycepsCordyceps is considered an adaptogen, a substance that is believed to help people adapt to and manage stress, anxiety, and fatigue, and is believed to enhance overall health, kidney and liver function, athletic performance, and cognitive abilities. Cordyceps is believed to have immune-boosting, antitumor, and antioxidant properties and appears to also reduce blood glucose levels and slow blood clotting process. Cordyceps is generally safe for most adults. Rare, mild side effects include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. Do not take cordyceps if pregnant or breastfeeding.
How Long Do Kidney Transplants Last?The duration for which a transplanted kidney lasts may vary from person to person. On average, kidney transplants may last for around 10-12 years.
Human Body QuizThe Human Body Quiz will help you learn about your little-known body parts! Take this quiz to learn more about your body and what goes on inside.
Kidney Disease QuizKidney disease is common. Take this kidney disease quiz to test your knowledge and learn the symptoms, causes and types of kidney disease and what foods to eat and avoid!
Kidney (Renal) Failure
Kidney failure can occur from an acute event or a chronic condition or disease. Prerenal kidney failure is caused by blood loss, dehydration, or medication. Some of the renal causes of kidney failure include sepsis, medications, rhabdomyolysis, multiple myeloma, and acute glomerulonephritis.
Post renal causes of kidney failure include bladder obstruction, prostate problems, tumors, or kidney stones.Treatment options included diet, medications, or dialysis.
mannitolMannitol is a diuretic medication used to treat acute kidney failure in the phase of reduced urine output (oliguric phase), to increase urination and improve kidney function before the kidney is irreversibly damaged. Common side effects of mannitol include pulmonary congestion, fluid and electrolyte imbalance, excess acidity of body fluids and tissue (metabolic acidosis), electrolyte loss, dryness of mouth, thirst, dehydration, increased urination (marked diuresis), urinary retention, reduced or absent urination (oliguria or anuria), blood in urine (hematuria), acute kidney injury; increase in blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and other waste products (azotemia), and others.
potassium citratePotassium citrate is a medication used in the management of kidney conditions that promote formation of kidney stones (nephrolithiasis), including renal tubular acidosis and low citrate excretion in the urine (hypocitraturia). Common side effects of potassium citrate include high blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia), abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Do not use if you have high blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia) or a predisposition for hyperkalemia. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
sodium citrateSodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid used to neutralize excessive acidity (metabolic acidosis) in the body, and prevent the formation of kidney stones (nephrolithiasis). Common side effects of sodium citrate/citric acid include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fluid retention, excessive alkalinity of body fluids (metabolic alkalosis), and involuntary muscle contractions (tetany). Consult your doctor before taking if pregnant or breastfeeding.
The Digestion Process (Parts, Organs, and Functions)Digestion is the complex process of turning the food you eat into the energy you need to survive. The digestive process also involves creating waste to be eliminated, and is made of a series of muscles that coordinate the movement of food. Learn more about digestion and the body parts that make it possible, including the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, anus, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
torsemideTorsemide is a medication used to reduce fluid retention and swelling (edema) associated with conditions such as heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disease (cirrhosis). Torsemide is also used to manage high blood pressure (hypertension), but not for the initial treatment of hypertension. Common side effects of torsemide include excessive urination (polyuria), electrolyte imbalances, headache, dizziness, nasal inflammation (rhinitis), cough, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion (dyspepsia), nervousness, and insomnia. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Ways to Keep Your Kidneys HealthyYou might know that more than a drink or two a day is bad for your health. But in some cases, any alcohol at all may not be a great idea.
What Are the Early Signs of Kidney Cancer?Kidney cancer or renal cell carcinoma is an abnormal growth of kidney cells. The most common and early sign of kidney cancer is blood in the urine or hematuria.
What Can Patients With Kidney Failure Eat?If you have kidney failure, you need to be even more careful about your diet. Learn about what foods to avoid with kidney disease.
What Is the First Sign of Kidney Cancer?When cells in the kidney become malignant or cancerous, they grow out of control forming a tumor, in one or both kidneys, resulting in kidney cancer. In adults, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. Other less common types of kidney cancer can occur rarely.
What Is the Main Cause of Kidney Cancer?The main cause of kidney cancer is altered DNA or a genetic mutation. These mutations lead to a potentially fatal, uncontrolled cell growth in the kidneys.
What Level of BUN Indicates Kidney Failure?Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is one of the parameters measured to ascertain kidney function. BUN indicates the urea nitrogen produced in the body during protein breakdown. There is no definite value of BUN that would diagnose kidney failure.