Living Donor Surgery

 How should I prepare for the surgery?

The medical evaluation of potential living donors is extremely thorough. Once you complete your evaluation and we decide to proceed, there is not much additional testing to be done. If you’d like to donate your own blood in the event you need a transfusion, you should donate a unit of blood two to four weeks prior to surgery. We may need to repeat some blood tests, if they were done more than 30 days before your surgery date.

Two to three days before surgery we will ask you, your recipient and your immediate family to attend a final pre-transplant review for any minor tests that may be needed and to answer any remaining questions. You will also be given specific pre-surgery instructions.

You and your recipient will be admitted to the hospital on the day of the surgery.

How is my kidney removed?

The preferred technique for removal of the donor kidney is laparoscopy. At Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, cutting edge minimally-invasive robotic surgery is employed to minimize pain and speed recovery following kidney donation. It involves four half-inch abdominal incisions through which a thin video camera and surgical instruments are inserted. The surgeon performs the procedure while viewing the surgical site on a video monitor. In the final step, a 3.5-inch cut is made on the lower abdomen (at the “bikini line”) for removal of the kidney. This technique takes about four hours and doesn’t require cutting muscle. The usual hospital stay is two to three days, with a potential to return to work in three to four weeks. The amount of pain from the incisions and bloating that occurs after the surgery is typically less in patients that undergo laparoscopic procedure.

On rare occasions the donor operation may be performed using standard laparoscopic techniques with removal of the kidney either through a lower abdomen incision as with the robotic surgery or through a small vertical incision above the belly button. The standard laparoscopic approach has recovery times similar to the robotic surgery.

The operations on the donor and the recipient take place simultaneously, in separate operating rooms. The donor surgery is begun in one room with a dedicated team and once the kidney is nearly out the recipient surgery is started in another room. This helps minimize time that the donor kidney is “on ice” prior to implantation.

Will I require a blood transfusion?

Blood transfusion during this surgery is uncommon. As a precaution, we ask you to “donate” one or two units of your own blood before the surgery. If you do need a transfusion, we can use your own blood so you’re not exposed to possible risks of a transfusion from someone else. There may be shipping charges if you donate blood at your local blood bank. Often, your insurance provider does not cover these costly charges. Should this be the case for you, arrangements can be made for you to donate the sample at Aurora St. Luke’s.

What are the possible complications?

As with any surgery, infection, bleeding and anesthesia related problems are possible complications.Your transplant team will discuss these risks in detail during the evaluation.

How long will I be in the hospital?

The average hospital stay for donors is two to five days after surgery.

Will I have a scar?

In most cases, the incision heals quickly. Leaving a scar that fades over time but will always be visible. If a wound infection develops, you may be left with a wider scar. Occasionally, patients develop what is called a keloid, the over-growing or over-healing of the skin that results in a raised scar.