Patients in need of a kidney transplant have a better prognosis for long-term recovery when they receive the organ from a living donor. While most people who donate a kidney find it rewarding and experience no adverse effects from doing so, there are risks that you need to discuss with your doctor before becoming a donor.
When you donate a kidney for transplant, the extraction operation takes place in a hospital. You are given general anesthesia and the procedure lasts about three hours. Your surgeon makes an incision in your side in order to reach your kidney. She cuts away the blood vessels and the ureter that are attached the organ and then removes it. She then closes the incision with either staples or stitches. Some of the risks you face as a kidney donor will come from the surgery itself, while others will result from changes your body goes through after you recover.
Kidney transplant risks for a donor begin with the removal surgery. You could experience an adverse reaction to the anesthesia used during the procedure. This could lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure or depressed breathing rate. You might have a heart attack or stroke during the surgery. You might experience uncontrolled bleeding during surgery or while you are recovering. During recovery, you are at risk for contracting an infection or developing blood clots.
Most people who donate a kidney live the rest of their lives with little difference from people who have two kidneys. There is a risk that for a time after the removal operation, your remaining kidney will not function as well. Usually this passes and the kidney recovers, functioning well throughout a person's life. If it does not, then you might require dialysis or a kidney transplant of your own.
Kidney transplant risks for a donor include the chance that you could be more likely to develop hypertension, or an issue with increased blood pressure. This complication is more likely to show up as you age, so you will need to monitor your blood pressure over time so you and your doctor can see the early signs of hypertension as soon as they develop.
When you donate a kidney, there is no guarantee that the recipient will make a complete recovery after the transplant. If you donate your kidney and the recipient dies, you could experience sensations of guilt or regret over being a donor. Because of the risk of injuring your remaining kidney, you will need to avoid contact sports or activities that could result in a kidney injury.