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Donation Surgery

The surgical procedure itself is called a nephrectomy, the surgical removal of a kidney. This removal can be done by either one of two ways:

Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy

Laparoscopic Nephrectomy, also known as "keyhole surgery," is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for obtaining a kidney from a living donor that can make the process easier.

In this procedure, the surgeon makes three or four small incisions close to the belly button. The kidney is removed through the central incision. Through one of the other openings, a special camera called a laparoscope is used to produce an inside view of the abdominal cavity. Surgeons use the laparoscope, which transmits a real-life picture of the internal organs to a video monitor, to guide them through the surgical procedure.

In comparison to the standard, Open Nephrectomy operation, Laparoscopic Nephrectomy results in smaller incisions and reduces recuperation time. Many donors are discharged from the hospital after two days and return to normal activity within four weeks.

Not all donors can undergo Laparoscopic Nephrectomy. You may not qualify for the procedure if:

  • You have had multiple previous abdominal surgeries
  • You are significantly overweight
  • There is abnormal anatomy of the kidney

The Kidney Transplant Team, in conjunction with your doctor, will complete an evaluation to determine if laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is a possibility.

Open Nephrectomy

Open Nephrectomy has been the standard for the last 35 years and involves a five to seven inch incision on the side of the chest and upper abdomen. A surgical instrument called a retractor is usually needed to spread the ribs to gain access to the donor's kidney. Sometimes, it's necessary to remove part of a rib for better exposure. The operation typically lasts three hours, and the recovery in the hospital averages four to five days. Donors can usually return to normal activity within four to twelve weeks.

Recovery from Surgery

Depending upon whether your surgery is a Laparoscopic Nephretomy or an Open Nephrectomy, donors usually stay in the hospital between a few days and a week after surgery. Although recovery time varies, most kidney donors return to normal activities after four to six weeks, depending on the physical demands of your daily living and work tasks. You may not be able to drive for up to two weeks. You may have lifting restrictions for at least six weeks. It is important to talk to the Kidney Transplant Team about what to expect.

You will also have multiple follow-up office visits and laboratory tests with the Kidney Transplant Team up to a year after the surgery. Unless unexpected complications occur, you can then schedule regular visits with your family doctor. It’s important to attend all appointments to make sure that you are recovering appropriately. The information collected during the follow-up process is also critical to help future potential living donors to make informed decisions.

For Additional Information

If you have a question about Living Donor transplants at Crozer Health, email kidney@crozer.org or call 610-619-8420.

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