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Living-donor kidney transplant


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Watch the video above for the story of a living-donor kidney transplant performed here at University of Colorado Hospital.

A live-donor nephrectomy is the removal of a kidney from a person who has willingly come forth to donate one of their kidneys for transplantation, usually to a relative or friend.  This is an operation performed on someone who doesn’t need surgery, which is a very unique situation. Because of this, donor safety and return to normalcy are of utmost importance.

Live kidney donation has been safely performed since the 1950’s, with subsequent modifications in technique making it minimally invasive for the donor. Our center was the first in the region to offer laparoscopic donor retrieval. Since the inception of this technique in 1999, we have safely performed nearly 1,000 laparoscopic donations.

The donor is medically screened to ensure a clear health history, normal kidney function, and acceptable kidney anatomy for transplant.  An elective operative date is then scheduled, with donor and recipient operations proceeding simultaneously in different rooms.

The donor operation is limited to two small port sites for the instruments and a periumbilical incision for kidney retrieval.  The operation typically lasts 1-2 hours, and the donor usually goes home 2-3 days after the operation.

After a full recovery, the donor lives normally with no limitation of activity. The benefits to the recipient include (1) elimination of years of wait-list time prior to transplant, and (2) an increase of about 35% in the average lifespan of the transplanted kidney. (The average half-life for live-donor kidneys is about 15 years, as compared to 11 years for cadaver kidneys.)