Surgery & Follow-Up Care
Living kidney donation surgery can be done in one of two ways: traditional open surgery or the newer laparoscopic technique available in some transplant centers. The healthcare team will discuss with the potential donor the benefits and risks of both types of procedure, as well as follow-up care. Surgery to remove a kidney is called a nephrectomy, which comes from the Greek term for removal of a kidney.
Traditional open nephrectomy. This operation takes about two to three hours to complete and the person remains in hospital for four to six days afterward. Six to twelve weeks are needed for full recovery, although the individual may return to work after four to six weeks if their job is fairly sedentary and does not require heavy lifting or physical activity.
Laparoscopic nephrectomy. This is sometimes also called “keyhole surgery”. The operation takes about three to four hours, followed by a hospital stay of three to four days. The individual can usually return to work and a normal routine in three to four weeks, although if their work involves heavy lifting, the recovery time may be extended. The advantages of the laparoscopic procedure are a smaller incision, less pain and scarring, a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery for the donor.
Follow-up care. The donor sees the surgeon again about two weeks after the surgery, and other members of the healthcare team (such as nephrologists, nurses, social worker, etc.) about six to nine weeks after the surgery. Blood and urine tests will be done to make sure the remaining kidney is working well.
All donors should be followed on a yearly basis for blood pressure, urine and blood tests. These annual checkups can be arranged through the donor’s family doctor or through the transplant center. Donors should also adopt a healthy lifestyle and maintain an appropriate weight to promote long-term health.
A few general precautions. In general, donors should avoid rough contact sports (such as football and hockey) that could damage the remaining kidney. Pregnancy should be postponed for at least six months after the surgery. The donor should continue to have an annual physical exam including blood and urine tests.