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Living Kidney Donor Program: The Procedure

After you have been cleared to be a living organ donor to donate your kidney to a person who has kidney failure and needs a kidney transplant, your living kidney donor care team will walk you through each step of the process and will answer any questions you have. Here is what you can expect during your living donor kidney donation surgery:

Before surgery

  • You will be under anesthesia and unconscious during your surgery.
  • You will have a breathing tube to assist your breathing during surgery.
  • You will have a temporary bladder catheter to drain urine.
  • You will have an intravenous line (IV) so that you can receive fluids.

During surgery

  • Your surgeon will make small incisions in your abdomen.
  • The surgeon will then insert the necessary instruments, including a camera and laparoscopic instruments.
  • Your surgeon will separate the blood vessels and the ureter (urine tube) of the kidney from the surrounding tissues. 
  • Your surgeon will remove the kidney and close your incisions.
  • The surgery takes three to four hours. 

Immediately after surgery

  • Your breathing tube will be removed as you wake up from anesthesia.
  • The transplant team will monitor you in a surgical recovery room.
  • Once you are awake and stable, you will be transferred to the transplant surgery unit. This is typically one to two hours after surgery.

Living with one kidney

  • Kidney function: All living donors experience a permanent decrease in kidney function after surgery. However, your long-term risk of developing kidney failure is similar to that of other healthy individuals with two kidneys.
  • Back to life: Once you have recovered from the surgery, which typically takes two to three weeks, you will be able to resume normal activity without any additional restrictions or medications.
  • Follow-up: After surgery, you will have follow up appointments with the transplant team one to two weeks after surgery. You will then have the following follow-up schedule:
    • Six months after surgery
    • One year after surgery
    • Two years after surgery

We recommend that you see your primary care physician at least once a year for check ups.

Fill out a living donor questionnaire to determine if you are elligible to be a living kidney donor.

The Rush University Transplant Program cares for patients in need of liver, kidney and pancreas t

Edward Hollinger Jr, MD, PhD is a transplant surgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Samuel Saltzberg, MD, is a nephrologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.