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Typical Patient Journey: Living Kidney Donor

Illustration of the typical living kidney donor journey

Patient calls Dartmouth-Hitchcock Transplantation Surgery team. The living kidney donor candidate speaks with the living kidney donor coordinator by phone. The coordinator takes the candidate's health history, and asks the candidate for proof of his or her blood type. If needed, the candidate will have to get a blood typing test.

Donor information packet. The coordinator mails an information packet to the candidate. The packet includes articles about laparoscopic surgery and other aspects of kidney donation. The candidate must call the coordinator after reviewing the information, if he or she wishes to continue the process.

Tissue typing and crossmatching test. This blood test is done to see if the candidate and the kidney recipient are compatible. A technician draws blood from both the recipient and candidate, and separates the samples into cells and serum (the yellow liquid left after the blood clots). The serum of the recipient is then mixed with cells from the candidate. If the blood of the recipient and candidate are compatible, the recipient's blood will not react against the candidates blood. The results of this test take two to three weeks. The process of becoming a donor can't continue until these results are available.

Initial evaluation with nephrology. The coordinator schedules an initial medical evaluation. During this evaluation, the nephrologist (kidney specialist) reviews in detail the candidate's medical history and current physical condition. The candidate also meets with a social worker and the coordinator.

Medical tests. The nephrologist orders several medical tests, including blood and urine tests, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). If the test results are favorable, the coordinator will schedule additional X-rays to make sure the candidate has two healthy kidneys. This will require another visit to DHMC.

Final crossmatching. Two days before the scheduled surgery date, the living kidney donor will undergo a final crossmatching test with the kidney recipient, to make sure the blood of the donor and the recipient are compatible.

Surgery. The date and time of the operation is coordinated with the patient, donor and transplantation team. The donor comes to the hospital on the morning of the operation, and is prepared for surgery in the same day surgery center. The donor is then taken to the operating room for laparoscopic removal of the kidney. The operation lasts about three hours.

Hospital stay. Donors usually go home one or two days after surgery.

Follow-up visits. A 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).

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