About Donated Kidneys | Transplantation Surgery | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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About Donated Kidneys

A kidney transplant can come from one of three sources:

  • A living relative (brother, sister, parent, etc.) of the person who will receive the transplant. The highest success rate is with an identical twin.
  • A living person not related by blood to the person who will receive the transplant. The kidney usually comes from a spouse, adoptive parent, or close friend.
  • A deceased individual, often called a cadaveric donor. Even though the person has died, the kidneys are still healthy. The donated kidney needs to closely match the candidate's blood and tissue type. There is a waiting list for cadaveric donated kidneys, and kidneys are assigned based on many factors including waiting time, degree of matching, and location.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, all living donor kidneys are removed using a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic nephrectomy. This technique reduces the pain and discomfort for the living kidney 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.

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. Living kidney donors usually go home two or three days after laparoscopic surgery.

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