A living donation makes better lives possible, however, it takes bravery to ask someone for help. There are many questions that are asked frequently about living kidney donation and being a living kidney donor. In this article, I will answer 9 of the most asked questions.
1. What does it take to be a living kidney donor?
The age factor plays a big role. The donor should be between the age of 18 and 65 with a good health and medical history. However, potential donors that are over the age of 65 are considered in some cases. You can register by visiting the Organ Donor Registry.
2. Is a kidney transplant from a living donor better than one from a deceased donor?
A. Kidney donation from a living donor has some major benefits for people with renal failure. Researchers prove that a living donor kidney functions better and lasts longer than a deceased donor’s kidney. Overall, some benefits of a living donor transplant are:
- A living donor kidney lasts about twice as long as a deceased donor’s kidney.
- Better long-term transplant kidney survival;
- Faster access to transplantation;
- More likely to avoid being on kidney dialysis.
- A reduced risk of rejection.
3. What may discount somebody as a kidney donor?
A history of heart disease, liver disease or chronic lung, hypertension, kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer or untreated psychiatric disease is usually a contraindication to donating (i.e. the donor candidate is “ruled out”). Smoking, obesity and other medical issues are considered on an individual basis.
4. What does kidney transplant surgery include?
The surgical procedure to remove a kidney from the donor is called a donor nephrectomy and takes about 2 – 3 hours. Surgeons use a minimally invasive technique, using 3 small incisions to insert instruments and a slightly larger incision (~8 cm in length) to remove the donor’s kidney. Donors usually spend 2-3 days in recovery before being discharged from the hospital.
5. What risks are there to kidney donors?
A. Once a living donor candidate has been completely evaluated, the chance of the donation affecting his/her lifestyle or lifespan is extremely insignificant. With any surgery and anesthesia, however, there are some risks. Nationally, the risk of having a life-threatening problem with donating a kidney is 1 in 3,000. The risk of minor complications such as a minor wound infection is about 2-4%.
6. What is recovery like?
Because the kidney donor surgery is a major surgical procedure, donors find they have less energy and need around 4 – 6 weeks to return to their full pre-surgical activity level. For donors who worked prior to surgery, disability coverage allows six weeks off for recovery; however, some donors do not need a long time to recover.
7. Who pays for a donor’s medical costs?
All expenses for the transplant surgery and everything related to the surgery are covered by the recipient’s health insurance.
8. What is the long-term outcome for kidney donors?
The New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association published long-term studies in 2009 and 2010 analyzing outcomes of kidney donors. One study followed 80,000 live kidney donors dating back to 1994, while the other studied 3,698 individuals who donated a kidney between 1963 and 2007. Results showed:
Donor survival was similar to that of the general control population (people who had not had a kidney removed) matched for age, sex, and race or ethnic group.
The rate of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) was significantly lower in the group of patients who donated a kidney than the rate in the general population (180 versus 268 per million per year).
After donating one kidney (removing 50 percent of the functioning kidney mass), the remaining normal kidney compensates and the overall kidney function (measured in GFR, or glomerular filtration rate) increases to approximately 70 percent of baseline at about two weeks and approximately 75 to 85 percent of baseline at long-term follow-up.
9. Can a female donor have children after donating a kidney?
The kidney surgery will not affect the recipient’s reproductive organs, therefore, women of childbearing age can have children after kidney donation. California Pacific’s kidney team can work with donors to plan a donation time that works best with family planning if needed.