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What to Expect as a Living Donor

 There are several phases in the donation process, including evaluation, surgery and recovery. As with any surgery, it is also important to be aware of the risks associated with kidney donation. Your team can even connect you to a donor mentor – someone who has done what you are about to do and can share their personal experience with you.

What Kidney Donors Need to Know: Before, During and After Donation | Q&A with Dr. Fawaz Al Ammary

Transplant nephrologist Fawaz Al Ammary discusses live kidney donation, including the evaluation process and qualifications to become a donor, common misconceptions, medical concerns and long term effects of kidney donation.


The evaluation helps determine if, as the donor, you match the recipient. In the first stage of evaluation, you’ll undergo tissue typing and lab screenings. Blood and tissue typing checks to see if you and your recipient are compatible, and how well the kidney will be accepted by the recipient. Comprehensive lab testing may include, but is not limited to, the following:

Ray Reinhardt donated a kidney to his wife, Kathy
Ray Reinhardt donated a kidney to his wife, Kathy.

If these lab results are satisfactory, you’ll next meet with transplant physicians to discuss the procedure and its risks. The physicians and surgeons will review your results and will require additional testing, such as X-rays, electrocardiograms, or radiologic testing. This testing will including a full day of appointments and diagnostic testing. During this time, you will also meet with our psychologist, Donor Advocate, and nurse coordinator. Further testing may also be required.

Once the work-up is completed, your case will be presented to the multi-disciplinary transplant team. This team includes surgeons, nephrologists, psychologists, donor advocates, and nurse coordinators. They represent you and make decisions that are in your best interest regarding the transplant.

It is important to note that, as a donor, you will have a different transplant team from your recipient. Your team cares for you exclusively. It is a common fear that donors are viewed as a kidney and not as a person; however, at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center, organ donors are given the same considerations and respect as all of our patients.

Note: At any time during the evaluation process, up until the moment of surgery, you are entitled to change your mind about the donation. This decision is made with your physicians and is kept completely confidential.

Living Kidney Donor Surgery

Transplant surgeon Dorry Segev discusses the kidney transplant waiting list, living kidney donors, surgery, recovery and the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center.

Surgery and Recovery

If you are approved for the donation after all of the tests are completed, the surgery will be scheduled. The surgery is usually scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Typically, a living kidney transplant donor spends two days in the hospital, and will have an additional four to six weeks of recovery time. Donors who are from out of town should plan on spending an extra week in town after they discharged from the hospital.

During recovery, you will experience some pain and discomfort. This should be easily relieved with either a prescribed medication or over-the-counter pain relievers. For two weeks, you should avoid driving, and you should avoid picking up anything that weighs more than ten pounds for six weeks following surgery. You are encouraged to walk several times a day. If you have children, you may need initial help in caring for them.

Depending on the type of work you do, you may be able to return to your job as soon as two or as long as eight weeks after surgery. There will be follow-up tests to monitor your health.

Post-Donation NSAIDs Restrictions 

Donors should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Tylenol is the only over the counter pain reliever that should be used post donation. Download this alphabetical list of common NSAIDS to avoid. This list is not all-inclusive. 


As with any surgery, live kidney donation has its risks:

  • Anesthesia, and possible allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Infection
  • Bleeding and blood loss which requires transfusion
  • Blood clots
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Injury to surrounding tissue and other organs
  • Scarring
  • Death

Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon, Dorry Segev, M.D., led a study to monitor long-term survival among live kidney donors and found that long-term mortality was similar or lower for live kidney donors than their counterparts in the general public.

If you are interested in becoming a living kidney donor, call 410-614-9345.

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