Most living organ donors are screened and worked up extensively prior to their surgery and are usually picked as donors because they are in good health. Most donors remain healthy and go on to live long and healthy lives.
The post-operative recovery is usually 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of operation that has been performed. For example, the laparoscopic procedure for kidney donation involves one larger incision and two to three smaller ones. These tend to heal faster with less pain compared to the larger flank incision for open nephrectomy.
Some donors have long term problems associated with surgery such as pain due to nerve damage, hernia or intestinal obstruction. These are serious issues which may require long term follow up with the physicians at the transplant center and may also need surgical intervention, if serious. Currently, no long term data is available regarding these complications for living donors in the United States.
Donors are highly encouraged to have regular follow up visits with their family physicians after organ donation. Kidney donors should be regularly monitored for high blood pressure, proteinuria and reduced kidney function in their remaining kidney. There have been some instances of the donors themselves requiring a kidney transplant later because of kidney failure. This should be discussed with the transplant team prior to the surgery so that risk factors could be identified which will predispose to kidney failure later in life.
The majority of donors can live a healthy life after kidney donation. Most transplant centers will caution the donors to restrict contact sports like football, wrestling, boxing, soccer, hockey and martial arts or wear padded vests under clothing for protection.
Pregnancy is usually not recommended for at least six months following donation. Female donors are encouraged to talk to their transplant teams and their og-gyn physicians to ensure good pre-natal care once they do get pregnant. Please be advised that some additional problems can occur after kidney donation as a result of the pregnancy such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, proteinuria and pre-eclampsia.