Surgery and Hospitalization

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The surgery itself will be performed using one of two techniques. These techniques will be discussed with the donor in advance of the procedure so he or she will know what to expect.

Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy

Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is the operative technique most often used to remove a kidney. The laparoscopic technique requires several short incisions in the donor’s abdomen, through which a specialized camera and other instruments are inserted. This allows the surgical team to free the kidney from its surrounding tissues. An additional incision is made in the lower abdomen, and the surgeon removes the kidney through this opening. Since the incisions are small, the surgeon is able to enter the abdomen without actually dividing muscles. The donor suffers less pain, and recovery is rapid. With laparoscopic nephrectomy, donors can generally expect to be in the hospital for three to four days.

The Open Technique

In approximately 20 percent of kidney donors the laproscopic donor nephrectomy procedure may not be appropriate. For these donors, using the open technique provides a safer alternative. This technique involves an incision in the side of the abdomen (flank) below the rib cage and the division of some muscles. The kidney is removed through this incision, and the muscles and the skin carefully closed. This technique is associated with more postoperative pain, but the pain can be effectively managed with medication. The donor can expect a hospitalization of approximately four to five days, slightly longer than for a donor having the laparoscopic procedure.

Following either type of surgery, the donor will be observed for a period in the recovery room and then be returned to his or her hospital room. Both the donor and the recipient will be on the nursing unit of the hospital that specializes in the care of patients with kidney disease, nephrectomies and transplants.