Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy

Donor nephrectomy (nef-rek-tuh-mee) is surgery to remove a kidney from a person willing to donate a kidney to a relative or friend who has kidney failure. The kidney is removed and then immediately transplanted into the recipient individual.

Who can be a donor?

A donor must be in good general health. Donors must not suffer from high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, morbid obesity, kidney disease or heart disease. The age of a kidney donor is between 18 and about 60 years of age. The donor and the recipient need to have compatible blood types. It is very important that potential donors understand exactly what the procedure involves, including testing, surgery, recovery period and possible risks.

How will donating a kidney affect my lifestyle?

A person can live a normal life with one kidney. Donating a kidney does not shorten your life span or increase your risk of disease. Deciding to be a living donor can be very rewarding and truly is giving the "gift of life".

Does Insurance cover the cost?

In most cases, the recipient's insurance covers the donor's medical costs. Exactly what is covered will need to be verified as coverage varies with each type of insurance.

What type of surgery is performed?

Until recently, the surgery involved removing the kidney by a large incision, about 10-12 inches in length. This surgery usually results in an extended hospital stay, is fairly painful, and requires a long recovery period.

There is now another option performed at Upstate Medical University. The option is a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy. With this type of surgery a special device called a laparoscope is used. Small (about one inch) incisions are made to allow the insertion of the laparoscope and surgical instruments. Attached to the laparoscope is a special tiny TV camera. The surgeon removes the kidney by looking at a magnified view of the kidney and surrounding areas on a monitor.

What are the benefits?

The benefits are:

  • Fewer complications.
  • Less pain.
  • Smaller, less noticeable scars.
  • Decreased length of hospital stay of 3 days from 5 to 8 days.

What are the risks?

Possible risks are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to nearby structures and organs

Will I need any tests before surgery?

Several tests are performed to ensure that you are a compatible donor for the recipient. These tests include blood tests, tissue-typing, cross matching the donor's cells with that of the recipient's, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG). The surgeon will need your medical history. This needs to be as accurate as possible. Omitting parts of your medical history could lead to organ rejection in the recipient. All information is kept confidential.

How should I prepare for surgery?

You will be admitted to the hospital the day before your surgery. Bring 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.

What should I expect after surgery?

The usual hospital stay is two to three days. Most people return to their normal level of activity in about one to two weeks. Avoid lifting very heavy objects for six weeks after donating.