Kidney Donation Surgery: What to Expect

Since the fall of 1999, virtually all donor nephrectomies performed at the Emory Transplant Center have been done using the laparoscopic technique. The laparoscopic technique offers the donor a faster and less uncomfortable recovery. To date, Emory surgeons have performed over 400 laparoscopic donor nephrectomies.

Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure which allows the kidney to be removed through four small incisions. The operation takes approximately three to four hours and, as with all surgery, it involves risks. Any operation carries the risk of anesthesia complications, bleeding, blood clots or infection. Occasionally, a difficulty may arise which cannot be safely managed laparoscopically. In this situation, the surgeon will convert to a conventional open procedure.  

Once the donated kidney is removed, it is immediately prepared for transplant into the recipient, who in most cases will already be anesthetized in an adjacent operating room. The donor will spend approximately two hours in a recovery area before returning to a regular hospital room, where family and friends can visit. A typical hospital stay is two to three days after surgery, with several outpatient examinations the week following surgery.

Recovery and return to work takes approximately two weeks for a desk job and four to six weeks for those with more physically demanding jobs. It is recommended that donors avoid any heavy lifting for approximately six weeks following surgery.