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Frequently Asked Living Kidney Donor Questions

Will my being evaluated as a donor change the recipient's waiting list status?
How much will it cost?
Once I am approved as a donor, when will the transplant take place?
What about my medications?
What can I eat before surgery?
How is my kidney removed?
How long will I be in the hospital?
What about check-ups?
When can I drive, and travel?
When can I return to work?
When can I restart my birth control pills?
How long should I wait after surgery to get pregnant?

Will my being evaluated as a donor change the recipient's waiting list status?

We do not change the recipient's status on the cadaveric (deceased) kidney donor waiting list while we are evaluating a potential living kidney donor.

How much will it cost?

All charges for your evaluation, surgery, hospitalization, and immediate post-operative care will be billed to the recipient's insurance company. Donors must have their own medical insurance to cover any additional expenses related to the transplantation surgery.

Once I am approved as a donor, when will the transplant take place?

A suitable date will be decided between you, the recipient, and the transplant team. A number of things could change the date, including a decline in the recipient's condition. An infection, for instance, would need to be treated before transplantation surgery. The operations on the donor and the recipient take place at the same time, in separate operating rooms.

What about my medications?

Women on birth control pills must stop taking them 30 days before surgery. All living kidney donors must avoid aspirin and other similar drugs (such as Advil or Motrin) for at least seven days before surgery, as they increase the risk of bleeding complications during surgery.

What can I eat before surgery?

The day before the surgery, follow a liquid diet from noon until midnight. From midnight on, take nothing by mouth until surgery. You will be asked to take a laxative the day before surgery. We'll give you instructions about your prescription medications during your final appointment before surgery.

How is my kidney removed?

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, all live donor kidneys are removed using a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic nephrectomy. This technique reduces the pain and discomfort for the donor, and allows an earlier return to work. In addition, there are only three small incisions, and less scarring than other types of surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery uses a laparoscope (a thin tube with a video camera at its tip) and small instruments to remove the kidney.

First, the surgeon creates a space between the wall of the abdomen and the organs inside using carbon dioxide gas to expand the abdomen. Next, three small incisions are made in the skin, and narrow tubes are passed through the abdominal wall. Instruments will be moved through these tubes during the operation. This is all seen on a television monitor, with images from the camera in the laparoscope. Using small instruments, the surgeon removes the kidney and its accompanying blood vessels through one of the small incisions on the lower abdomen.

How long will I be in the hospital?

The operation lasts about three hours. A donor is allowed to take ice chips a few hours after waking, and will start clear liquid foods the next day. During the hospital stay, you will have an IV (intravenous line) to give you fluids and any needed medications. You'll also have a drainage tube (catheter) in your bladder. Living kidney donors usually go home one or two days after laparoscopic surgery. Both the IV and the catheter are removed before you leave the hospital.

What about check-ups?

A living kidney donor must return for a follow-up visit a week after leaving the hospital. The donor must have yearly check-ups with his or her primary care physician (family doctor).

When can I drive, and travel?

Avoid driving for at least the first two to three weeks after surgery. Avoid taking long-distance trips during this time, so you can remain close to the hospital in case of any health complications.

When can I return to work?

With laparoscopic surgery, living kidney donors usually return to work within four to six weeks. Plan on taking at least six weeks off from work.

When can I restart my birth control pills?

Women who use birth control pills must wait at least three months after surgery before resuming use.

How long should I wait after surgery to get pregnant?

We recommend that you do not become pregnant for at least six months after surgery.

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