Kidney Donor Surgery and Recovery

Living-kidney donors undergo minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery to remove the donated kidney (laparoscopic nephrectomy). Risks associated with this procedure are very small and manageable.

Laparoscopic kidney removal:

  • Minimizes trauma to the internal organs
  • Avoids a large incision through the muscles – the incision is about 2 ½ inches long – which eliminates the risk of most postoperative complications, significantly reduces postoperative discomfort, and facilitates quicker recovery
  • Shortens hospital stays (Most donors leave the hospital 24 to 48 hours after surgery.)

The donor and the recipient undergo surgery at the same time, with both patients placed under general anesthesia. Once the donor kidney is removed, it is immediately taken to the recipient’s operating room, implanted, and connected to the appropriate arteries, veins, and the ureter, the tube that carries urine to the bladder.

Most kidney donors can return to normal, productive lives about four to six weeks after surgery, with many able to return to work a week or two later, depending upon their jobs.

Because kidney donors permanently lose about one-third of their kidney function, it is critical that they go to their scheduled surgical follow-up visits and see their primary care doctors annually for routine lab work and blood pressure checks. They also should eat a healthful diet, maintain an appropriate weight, and avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.

In addition, kidney donors also are advised to tell all medical personnel about their donations for the rest of their lives.