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Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy

Who can be a donor?
Anyone who is found to be medically compatible to the recipient may be a donor. Most often, a donor is a sibling, spouse or a close relative or friend. A donor should be between the ages of 18 and 60. A donor cannot suffer from heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, morbid obesity or hypertension.

What surgery is performed to retrieve the kidney for transplantation?
A kidney can be removed from a donor in two ways. The first is called an open donor nephrectomy. An open donor nephrectomy involves a large incision in the side area. The surgeon must dissect through muscle layers to achieve proper exposure for removing the kidney. The second operation, performed here at the University of Kentucky, is a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy. With this type of surgery, a surgeon utilizes several small incisions, special instruments, a videoscope (called a laparoscope) and television monitors to remove a kidney for transplantation.

What are the benefits of a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy versus an open donor nephrectomy?
Compared with an open donor nephrectomy, laparoscopic donor nephrectomy reduces the hospital stay and the convalescence period, decreases postoperative pain and leaves smaller, less noticeable scars.

What are the risks involved with this surgery?
As with any surgery, there is a risk of bleeding, infection and damage to surrounding structures and organs. If this occurs, the surgeon may need to extend the incision to repair or prevent further damage.

How will donating a kidney affect my lifestyle?
A person can live a normal life with one kidney. You will be able to continue your current level of activity within one to two weeks of donating. Donating a kidney does not shorten your life span. Because they have helped the recipient, most donors report positive feelings after donating.

Does insurance cover the cost of donating?
In most cases, the recipient's insurance covers the donor's medical costs. However, this should be investigated further when considering donating.

Will I require any tests before surgery?
The renal transplant team will perform several tests to ensure that you are a compatible donor for the recipient. These tests include blood work, tissue-typing, crossmatching the donor's cells with that of the recipient's, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG). In addition to these tests, a complete medical history will be obtained. It is important to be as accurate as possible while giving your medical history. Inadvertently omitting parts of your medical history could lead to organ rejection in the recipient. All information is confidential.

How should I prepare for my surgery?
You will be admitted to the hospital the day before your surgery. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed. You should bring any comfort items, such as deodorant and toothpaste, for a brief hospital stay. The night before your surgery, you will not be allowed to drink or eat anything after midnight.

How long will I be in the hospital? When will I be able to return to work?
You will stay in the hospital two to three days. You will be able to return to work within one to two weeks. You should avoid lifting very heavy objects for six weeks after donating.

If you have any questions, please contact the Minimally Invasive Surgery office at (859) 257-3253. A nurse will return your call.

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Page last updated Wednesday, April 20, 2011