What are the risks of living-donor kidney donation?


Although some risk is associated with any surgery, donating a kidney does not pose a major risk to a healthy donor. Because the safety of the donor is of utmost importance, potential donors must complete an extensive evaluation before being accepted. Acceptance is contingent upon the approval of test results by both a transplant nephrologist and the transplant surgeon.


Kidney donors’ life expectancies are at least as long as that of non-donors, and studies increasingly show that kidney donors actually live longer. Donation does not affect one’s ability to become pregnant or to have a normal, healthy pregnancy.  


From the National Kidney Registry, a non-profit organization endorsed by the National Kidney Foundation:

"Although more than 6,000 living donors in the United States donate their kidneys every year, the procedure is not without risks. The donor surgery has a .03% mortality rate (i.e., 3 in 10,000). As a point comparison, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2007 infant mortality rate in the United States is .64% (e.g., 64 in 10,000), indicating that it is about 20 times riskier to be born in the United States than to donate a kidney."

Life expectancy

“Donating a kidney is major surgery but does not appear to reduce a person’s life expectancy. Interestingly, people who have donated a kidney outlive the average person. (Reference: Fehrman-Ekholm, Ingela 2,3; Transplantation, 64(7): 976-978, October 15, 1997.) This fact has fueled an ongoing debate over why kidney donors live longer than expected. Some experts believe that it is simply a selection bias since only healthy people can be selected to be living donors. Others argue that the altruistic act of giving the gift of life and the happiness and satisfaction that follows has a positive impact and leads to a healthier and longer life.”


"In addition to the mortality rate, living donors face the possibility of post-operative complications such as bleeding, wound infection, fever, etc. Most of the post-operative complications are generally short-term and can be addressed with quality medical care." care.” © National Kidney Registry


From The University of Maryland Transplant Center, ranked among U.S. New & World Report's “50 Best Hospitals”:

“The risks of donation are similar to those involved with any major surgery, such as bleeding and infection. Death resulting from kidney donation is extremely rare. Current research indicates that kidney donation does not change life expectancy or increase a person’s risks of developing kidney disease or other health problems."  © University of Maryland Medical Center


A more detailed presentation of risks can be found at Living Donors Online and other sites listed in the Online Resources section of this site.