The first successful kidney transplant was from a living donor. In 1954, Dr. Joseph Murray performed a living donor transplant between identical twins. Fifty years later, living donor kidney transplants remain the best way to treat kidney failure.
The living kidney donation operation has changed and improved considerably over the past several years. This change has been due to the increased use of “laparoscopic” or “key-hole” surgery for the kidney donor operation. With the laparoscopic approach, three or four one-inch incisions are made to perform the surgery and a three-inch incision is made to remove the kidney from the abdomen.
The laparoscopic operation has reduced the amount of pain and discomfort that patients have and has allowed a faster return to normal activities and work. Most kidney donors now return to work within two weeks following surgery. The average length of stay in the hospital after laparoscopic kidney donation is 36 hours.
Some transplant surgeons perform the donor operation without the laparoscopic procedure, however, most surgeons use much smaller incisions than those used several years ago. With these smaller incisions, approximately four inches, the pain and discomfort and return to work may be similar to laparoscopic surgery. It is important that you talk with your doctor about how the donor surgery will be performed.
Kidney Transplant Surgery
The recipient kidney transplant operation is performed through a curved incision in the lower abdomen either on the left or right side. The operation usually takes about 2 to 3 hours and the patient is usually in the hospital for 4 to 7 days. The risk of losing the kidney in the first 1-2 days is about 1%. This may occur due to a problem with the blood vessels or a very uncommon form of sudden rejection. The chances of a kidney still functioning at one year are over 95% for living donor kidney transplants and approximately 90% for deceased donor transplants.
In the very few cases of sudden rejection, there are treatments that can be applied to reverse sudden rejection.