Once testing is completed and an individual is accepted as a living kidney donor with a compatible recipient, a surgery date will be set. A team of experts in kidney donor care provide all aspects of care, before, during and after surgery.
Laparoscopic Kidney Donation Surgery
Living kidney donation, or nephrectomy, is a major surgery, but recent medical advancements make it possible to minimize the impact on the donor.
The surgery generally lasts two to three hours while the patient is asleep under general anesthesia. At Froedtert Hospital, all living kidney donation surgeries are laparoscopic, which means the kidney is removed using a few small incisions, the largest of which will be only about three inches long. With laparoscopic nephrectomy, patients have less visible scarring, shorter hospital stays and a more rapid return to normal activities.
Living kidney donors at Froedtert Hospital receive care on an inpatient unit dedicated to transplant patients. Patients can expect to be discharged from the hospital within a few days, and to be back to work and their regular routines in less than two weeks. Driving and lifting may be restricted for a few weeks after surgery.
Post-Surgery Care for Living Kidney Donors
After surgery, donors may experience common post-surgical discomfort, but complications following kidney donor surgery are rare. Long-term studies have shown that living with a single kidney has little impact on a donor’s health and does not change the donor’s life expectancy.
Once they are fully recovered, donors need to visit their primary care physicians regularly to monitor their blood pressure, kidney function and general health. A healthy lifestyle is advised, too, for optimal long-term quality of life. Transplant care coordinators at Froedtert Hospital provide support for donors for a minimum of two years and for as long as the donor desires.
For More Information
For more details about living kidney donations, see our list of resources and frequently asked questions.
FAQ and Resources
Do I need a referral for kidney transplantation at Froedtert Hospital?
Most of our patients are referred by their nephrologists as they approach the need for transplant or dialysis. If this is your situation, once we receive the referral, our office will contact you to make an appointment and complete a medical intake questionnaire with you. You may call us at 800-272-3666 to request more information.
What happens during my first appointment?
During your initial appointment, a transplant surgeon, nurse coordinator, social worker, registered dietitian, financial liaisons and a pharmacist will meet with you to evaluate you as a candidate for transplant. If you are appropriate for transplant, we will schedule you to begin the medical testing process.
How do I proceed for a living versus deceased donor transplant?
Options for a living donor versus a deceased donor transplant will be discussed at the time of your initial consultation.
Do I need to find my own living donor?
We encourage all of our patients to look for potential donors from among family, friends and acquaintances. Some patients have received kidneys from neighbors, church members or people in the community who heard of their need for a kidney. The Living Donor Kidney Exchange, available as part of the End-Stage Kidney Disease and Kidney Transplant Program, provides those who need a kidney transplant with significantly improved access to potential compatible donors.
When do I get placed on the transplant waiting list?
When tests are complete, your candidacy will be discussed at a meeting of the transplant review committee. This committee is composed of transplant surgeons, nephrologists, coordinators and other transplant professionals. After approval by the committee and authorization from an insurance carrier, a patient can be placed on the transplant wait list.
How long do I need to wait for a transplant while on the list?
The allocation or distribution of deceased donor kidneys is a complex system. There are many factors that are considered when a kidney becomes available. These include blood type, length of time on the list, medical urgency and other factors. For more information on waiting times for transplantation, visit the United Network for Organ Sharing.
What are my responsibilities while on the waiting list?
Your responsibilities include keeping the transplant office informed of changes in your address, phone numbers, dialysis centers and your medical condition. You will also need to remain “transplant ready” through periodic testing.
What are the risks of having a transplant?
The risks and possible complications of transplant are similar to those associated with any surgical procedure. During education sessions and consultation, these issues are discussed.
What should I anticipate when I get called in for a transplant?
When a patient is called in, he or she will be asked to report to the hospital as soon as possible. The patient can expect to be prepared for surgery by having a history and physical, lab work, chest X-ray and EKG. The final crossmatch is done at this time to determine if the transplant will proceed. The crossmatch results take a few hours to obtain before a final decision is made to go forward.
What are the side effects of the medications?
Antirejection medications are designed to suppress, or disable, a person’s immune system so that the transplanted organ will not be rejected. This can make patients vulnerable to infection. An upset stomach is also a common side effect. Your care team will work with you to closely monitor dosages and side effects, making all adjustments possible to help you feel as healthy as possible.
Where else can I learn more?
- Visit the National Kidney Foundation to learn more about kidney disease, transplantation, education, advocacy, resources and much more.
- The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) provides information about the transplantation and donation process, living donation and various national, regional, state and center-specific data reports. The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients website also provides national and local transplant center data.
- UNOS sponsors Transplant Living, a patient education website about life before and after transplant.
- Data specifically about kidney transplant at Froedtert Hospital is available through the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients website.
- You can also learn more by visiting the websites of our Transplant Center partners, Children’s Wisconsin, Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Transplant and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Transplant patients may be at a higher risk of severe COVID-19, and we have seen worse outcomes if they do get it. Due to the increased risk, we recommend transplant patients get the vaccine.