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While you can live a normal, healthy life after donating a kidney, there are still risks involved. Living kidney donation is major surgery, so it is important for potential kidney donors and their loved ones to understand these risks. All transplant hospitals are closely monitored by the government to ensure the safety and quality of care for all living kidney donors.


There is no medical benefit to a living kidney donor, only a medical benefit for the recipient. Still, many donors say they feel rewarded when they see their recipient’s quality of life improve. Donors can also have higher self-esteem and confidence after donating.

Studies show that 90% of living kidney donors report that they do not regret their decision and would do it again.

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 Life and Death 

30 out of 100,000 donors (less than 1%) have died within 90 days of surgery.

Listen to transplant surgeon, Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo, talk about the risk of dying from living kidney donor surgery.


Q: After donating, do living kidney donors live a shorter life-span than the general population? 

A: No. In general, the overall life-span is slightly better for living donors than the general population. Three months after donation, living kidney donors generally have the same or longer life expectancy than the general population because living kidney donors must be very healthy in order to donate.

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Q and A with Dr. Monica Grafals, MD, a Nephrologist at the Lahey Clinic:

Q:  Are living kidney donors more likely to get kidney disease?

A. Living kidney donors' chance of getting kidney disease is greater or lower depending on who they are compared to. Donors' chances of getting kidney disease are lower when compared to the general population, but are greater when compared to healthy non-donors.

Group Chances of getting kidney disease What this means
General population 326 out of 10,000 (3.3%) Highest chance
Living donors 90 out of 10,000 (0.9%) Low chance
Healthy non-donors 14 out of 10,000 (0.14%) Lowest chance


QAre living kidney donors more likely to have other health problems?

A. "If living donors keep a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle including exercise it would be extremely rare to develop health problems such as diabetes and hypertension."


Learn more about:
  • Living kidney donors' chances of getting kidney disease
  • Whether living kidney donors can have children


Learn more about:
  • Complications that can happen because of living kidney donor surgery


More information about the complications of living kidney donation can be found at the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) website in Policy 14 on Living Donation. This policy describes what transplant hospitals must tell potential living kidney donors about the risks of donation.

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 Psychological Risks 

Living kidney donors may experience psychological problems like depression, anxiety, or guilt. Living donors are more likely to experience psychological problems when their recipient does not do well, such as when the recipient rejects the kidney or dies.

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 Lifestyle Changes 

Learn more about:
  • How living kidney donation can affect a donor's lifestyle


Q: How can I learn more about recovery after surgery?

A: Click here to learn about the recovery process.

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 Reference and Publication Information 


Berger JC, Muzaale AD, James N, et al. Living kidney donors ages 70 and older: Recipient and donor outcomes. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 2011;6(12):2887-2893.

Segev DL, Muzaale AD, Caffo BS, et al. Perioperative mortality and long-term survival following live kidney donation. Journal of the American Medical Association 2010; 303(10):959-66.

Will I benefit from living kidney donation?
Binet I, Bock A, Vogelbach P, et al. Outcome in emotionally related living kidney donor transplantation. Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 1997;12(9):1940-1948.

Cabrer C, Oppenhaimer F, Manyalich M, et al. The living kidney donation process: The donor perspective. Transplantation Proceedings 2003;35(5):1631-1632.

Heck G, Schweitzer J, Seidel-Wiesel M. Psychological effects of living related kidney transplantation-risks and chances. Clinical Transplants 2004;18(6):716-721.

Johnson E, Anderson J, Jacobs C, et al. Long-term follow-up of living kidney donors: quality of life after donation. Transplantation 1999;67(5):717-721.

Schover L, Streem S, Boparai N, Duriak K, Novick A. The psychosocial impact of donating a kidney: Long-term follow up from a urology based center. The Journal of Urology 1997;157(5):1596-1601.

Smith MD, Kappell DF, Province MA, et al. Living-related kidney donors: a multicenter study of donor education, socioeconomic adjustment, and rehabilitation. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 1986;8(4):223-233.

Weizer N, Weizman A, Shapira Z, Yussim A, Munitz H. Suicide by related kidney donors following the recipients' death. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 1989;51(4):216-219.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 42 CFR parts 405, 482, 488, and 49.

Chances of Death Graph
National Safety Council Injury Facts 2011 Edition. URL: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/injury_and_death_statistics/Pages/InjuryDeathStatistics.aspx

Parikh P, Shiloach M, Cohen ME, Bilimoria KY, Ko CY, Hall BL, Pitt HA. Pancreatectomy risk calculator: an ACS-NSQIP resource. HPB (Oxford) 2010;12(7):488–497.

Will I get kidney disease?
Garg AX, Meirambayeva A, Huang A, et al. Cardiovascular disease in kidney donors: matched cohort study. British Medical Journal 2012;344:e1203.

Ibrahim HN, Foley R, Tan L, et al. Long-term consequences of kidney donation. New England Journal of Medicine 2009;360(5):459-469.

Morgan BR, Ibrahim HN. Long-term outcomes of kidney donors. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension 2011;20(6):605-609.

Mjoen G, Hallan S, Hartmann A, et al. Long-term risks for kidney donors. Kidney Int. 2014;86(1):162-7.

Muzaale AD, Massie AB, Wang MC, et al. Risk of end-stage renal disease following live kidney donation. JAMA 2014;311(6):579-86.


Will I be able to have children?
Ibrahim HN, Akkina SK, Leister E, Gillingham K, Cordner G, et al. Pregnancy outcomes after kidney donation. American Journal of Transplantation 2009;9:825–834.

Josephson MA. Transplantation: Pregnancy after kidney donation: more questions than answers. Nature Reviews: Nephrology 2009;5(9):495-7.

Morgan BR, Ibrahim HN. Long-term outcomes of kidney donors. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension 2011;20(6):605-609.

Reisaeter AV, Roislien J, Henriksen T, Irgens LM, Hartmann, A. Pregnancy and birth after kidney donation: The Norwegian experience. American Journal of Transplantation 2009;9:820–824 (2009).


Do Living Donors Feel Depressed?
Lentine KL, Schnitzler MA, Xiao H, et al. Depression Diagnoses After Living Kidney Donation: Linking U.S. Registry Data and Administrative Claims. Transplantation 2012;94(1):77-83.

Tanriverdi N, Ozcurumez G, Colak T, et al. Quality of life and mood in renal transplantation recipients, donors, and controls: preliminary report. Transplant Proceedings 2004;36(1):117-119.


Some medical/health information on this page may be offered by non-medical professionals or organizations.



Some medical/health information on this page may be offered by non-medical professionals or organizations.


Last Updated: 7/10/2015