Facts to Prepare You
The purpose of this handout is to provide information to you and your family about kidney
donation at the UW Health. A nurse coordinator will review this handout with you. Please keep
this handy so you can refer to it as needed.
The entire transplant team of doctors, nurse coordinators, social workers, dieticians, nurses,
physician assistants and pharmacists are here to help you.
Our Transplant Providers
Dr. Anthony D'Alessandro
Dr. Luis Fernandez
Dr. David Foley
Dr. Joshua Mezrich
Dr. Robert Redfield
Dr. Martin Dib
Dr. David Al-Adra
Scot Johnson, N.P.
Dr. Arjang Djamali
Dr. Didier Mandelbrot
Dr. Maha Mohamed
Dr. Neetika Garg
Dr. Sandesh Parajuli
Brenda Muth, N.P.
Jennifer Turk, N.P.
Justin Blazel, N.P.
You will also meet medical/surgical fellows, residents and students.
The Decision to Donate
Choosing to donate a kidney is an
individual, voluntary act. Having mixed
feelings about kidney donation is very
common. Before you decide to give a
kidney there are many things to consider.
How will this affect me? How will this
affect my family? How will this affect my
Donor Mentor Program
UW Health has a Donor Mentor Program to
help potential kidney donors find answers to
some of these questions. Potential kidney
donors can speak with people with similar
backgrounds who have already undergone
kidney donor surgery. We encourage any
potential donor to take part in this program.
If you would like to know more about this
program, please talk to your coordinator or
Things to Consider
Risks of kidney donor surgery (donor
nephrectomy) are the same as any other
surgery. These include the risk of
anesthesia, bleeding, infection, and wound
healing problems. Other risks can include
pneumonia, blood clots, and pain.
Additional medical risks may be associated
with an individual’s specific personal health
history and family history.
Kidney donation, most often, does not
change your present lifestyle. It does not
change the length of your life or increase
your risk of getting kidney disease. It does
not interfere with a woman's ability to have
children. You will not need a special diet or
take additional medicines because you only
have one kidney. The other kidney will
grow and take over the work of both
Some long-term studies of kidney donors
have shown that protein in the urine or high
blood pressure may occur after giving a
kidney. Other large studies of kidney
donors have shown that there is no increased
risk of kidney failure after donating a
Costs of the donor work up, surgery,
hospitalization; doctors’ charges and a post-
surgery follow up visit are covered under the
recipient’s insurance and/or Medicare. The
costs of a 6 month, 1 year and 2 year
blood/urine test will be your or your
insurance company’s responsibility. The
costs for travel expenses or time taken away
from work are not typically covered. A
donor should prepare themselves and their
family for these extra expenses. If you think
you may have a financial hardship if you
donate, please talk with the living donor
social worker about ways to get financial
What to Bring with You to the
Often, kidney donors go home 1-3 days after
the donor surgery. Your hospital discharge
day will be determined after the surgery
based on how you are doing. Please do not
bring large amounts of cash, credit cards or
other valuables. Please bring:
ξ any medicines you take daily
ξ Personal and comfort items
(toothpaste, shampoo, pillows) – if you
ξ comfortable clothes that will not be
too tight over the incision
ξ walking shoes
ξ books or other things to keep yourself
busy- if you wish
On the transplant unit there is a washer and
dryer for our patients’ use. Laundry soap is
not provided. Hospital rooms are not locked
so make sure common items such as cell
phones, electronics or laptop computers are
with you or a family member at all times
should you choose to bring them.
Preparing for Surgery
Before your surgery, you will come to UW
Health transplant clinic for the pre-surgery
evaluation. You will have an updated
physical, blood testing, and maybe a chest x-
ray or EKG. If you have had problems in
the past with anesthesia, you will also have
an anesthesia clinic screening. The clinic
nurse will teach you deep breathing and
coughing exercises. This helps prevent
You will receive a reminder in the mail
regarding what time to come for this visit.
At this clinic appointment you should know
what type of surgery you will have,
laparoscopic or open and which kidney will
be donated, right or left. (See HFFY #5285
for a brief explanation of each). If you do
not live nearby, hotel accommodations the
night before surgery will be provided.
The day of your surgery you will be
admitted to the hospital First Day Surgery
Center. You will be admitted to your
If you are a
blood/plasma/platelet donor and
plan to donate a kidney, you
should not donate blood
products before the evaluation
or before the surgery.
If you receive any bills related to the
donor medical work up or your
hospital stay, please call the
transplant office at (608) 263-1384.
hospital room after the surgery. While in
the First Day Surgery Center an intravenous
catheter (IV) will be inserted into one of
your veins. Through the IV, placed in the
arm or hand, you will be given fluids for
About an hour before surgery, you will get
some medicines. These will relax you and
dry the secretions in your lungs. It will
make your mouth feel dry, and you will
become sleepy. After the shot, we will ask
you to stay in bed.
During surgery, a small rubber tube (Foley
catheter) will be placed in your bladder.
This allows us to watch your urine output. It
remains in place until the day after surgery.
The surgery typically will last about 3-4
hours. You will be in the recovery room for
about 1-2 hours before being taken to your
room on the nursing unit.
When you arrive in your room, you will still
be quite sleepy. You will still have the IV
and Foley catheter in place. Your nurse will
take your blood pressure, pulse, and
temperature, and measure your urine output
You will be asked to cough and deep
breathe at least hourly while you are awake.
Anesthesia can increase your lung
secretions. These can stay in your lungs and
may lead to pneumonia. By deep breathing,
air reaches the area where the secretions
collect and coughing helps to bring them up.
A small plastic tool (incentive spirometer)
will be used to help you take deep breaths.
Most often you get up and walk about 6
hours after you return to your room.
Walking will help prevent many problems
that can occur after surgery. These include
pneumonia, blood clots and bowel problems.
You should walk at least every 1-2 hours
during the first few weeks.
You will be given TED socks (elastic
stockings) and leg SCDs (sequential
compression devices) to wear. The SCDs
will provide a constant massage to your
lower legs that helps the blood flow to and
from your legs which helps prevent blood
clots. You will also receive a heparin (a
blood thinner) shot twice a day in your
stomach which will help prevent blood clots
Your urine output will be measured. When
the Foley is removed, we will continue to
measure your output every time you void.
This helps us know that your remaining
kidney is working well.
Your doctor will decide when you can
resume eating. Surgery and pain medicines
can slow the wave-like action of your
bowels for a short time. As bowel activity
and sounds return and you start to pass gas,
you will be given liquids. Slowly you will
advance to eating regular food. Walking as
early as you are able will help your bowel
function return to normal.
Laparoscopic incisions are smaller. There
are 3-4 small (one-inch or less) incisions at
various places on the abdomen and one
larger (3-4 inch) incision below the belly
button. Sutures are used to close these
incisions. Usually these are internal sutures
which will dissolve over time following the
surgery. Some donors may have a single
port surgery in which case there is only one
incision within the belly button. Most if not
all donor surgeries are laparoscopic.
The evening before surgery you will
take a shower using a special soap. You
will not eat or drink after midnight. We
will review this information at the clinic
An open incision will be about 8-10 inches
long on either your right or left side. Both
the skin and muscle need to be cut to
remove your kidney. The lowest rib on that
side may be removed. Loss of this rib will
not cause any disability or extra pain.
Sutures will be used to close the incision.
Open donor surgery is rarely done.
Good pain control helps you heal faster,
leave the hospital sooner, and prevent
problems. Drug and non-drug treatments
can help prevent and control pain. The goal
is to be at a level that will allow you to deep
breathe, eat, walk and sleep. This may mean
that you may not be pain-free but your pain
should not prevent you from being able to
do these things. We need to ask you what
your pain level is, so that we know how well
the medicine is working.
Your doctor will order pain medicine for
you. Tell us about the pain, especially if it is
not going away. Do not worry about being a
“bother.” Pain medicine may cause you to
become drowsy, dizzy, or lightheaded. You
are the only one who can tell us about your
pain and how you are feeling. Be honest so
we can help keep your pain under control
and manage any side effects.
Pain Pills – Once you are awake you will be
given pain pills to minimize the pain. You
will be given a supply of pain medicine to
take home with you. Initially if your pain is
not controlled with pain pills your doctor
may order a pain shot during the hospital
Getting Ready for Discharge
You will go home 1-3 days after the donor
surgery. Your nurse and doctor will give
you additional instructions before discharge.
Pain medicine can cause constipation. Pain
medicine slows down bowel movements
moving through the intestine. This causes
the stool to become hard. If you have hard
bowel movements, have trouble passing
bowel movements, and the movements are
not often enough, then you are constipated.
Once you are home, you will need a plan to
avoid constipation. Stick to the plan as long
as you are taking pain medicine. Review
your plan with your doctor or nurse. Here
are some things that could be included in
ξ Eat foods that have helped you to
relieve constipation in the past.
ξ Eat foods high in fiber, as long as
they have been approved by your
doctor. This includes foods such as
uncooked fruits, raw vegetables, and
whole grains and cereals. Try prune
juice. If you are not hungry, do not
force yourself to eat fiber.
ξ Drink plenty of liquids. Eight to ten
8-ounce glasses of fluid each day
will help keep your stools soft.
Warm liquids often help your bowels
ξ Walk as much as you are able each
day. Increase the amount you walk
as you can.
ξ Plan your bowel movements for the
same time each day, if you can. Set
aside time for sitting on the toilet.
ξ Having a bowel movement every
second or third day rather than every
day can happen following surgery.
Activity and driving will need to be
restricted. Walking is a good exercise
anytime. Do not lift more than 5-10 pounds
You should look at your incision/s daily
watching for signs of infection such as
redness, swelling and/or drainage.
for the first 8 weeks after surgery. Exercise
with moderation, and gradually increasing
the amount lifted after 4-6 weeks is probably
ok. Remember it is better to slowly increase
to any more strenuous activities over time.
You cannot drive if you are still taking
pain pills or having pain. In most cases,
you may return to work after 4-6 weeks.
Some people may go back to work as early
as 2-3 weeks. This will depend on what
kind of work you do. Please discuss
returning to work with your doctor.
A clinic visit in transplant clinic will be
made for you approximately 3-4 weeks after
the donation. You should know the
appointment date and time prior to your
discharge from the hospital. Further activity
and work guidelines should be discussed at
this clinic visit. If any questions or
problems arise before this visit, please call
the transplant coordinator. We will want
you to have additional check-ups at 6
months, one year and two years following
We suggest following kidney donation that
your routine annual physical with your local
doctor include a physical exam, a blood
pressure, blood creatinine level and urine
testing to see how your kidney is working.
The cost of the 6 month and annual local
check-ups will be your or your insurance’s
How does having only one kidney change
After kidney donation your lifestyle should
be unchanged. You will not need to follow
any special diet or take any medicine
because you gave a kidney. Although it is
extremely important to maintain a healthy
weight and eat a heart healthy diet.
We suggest that you avoid long-term or
heavy use of any medicines that can affect
kidney function. A common type of
medicine we suggest avoiding is the class
called, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDS). Examples of such medicines are
naproxen, ibuprofen and Aspirin. Ibuprofen
is found in many over the counter
medicines, like Advil®, Motrin®, Midol®,
Nuprin® and Rufen®. Naproxen is also
known as Aleve®. These medicines may be
combined with many other over-the-counter
cold medicines. If you have any questions
about a medicine that may contain ibuprofen
or naproxen, as well as any other medicine
or over the counter product consult your
pharmacist. If these medicines are used
over a long period or in excess, they can
harm your kidney. You should always ask
your doctor or pharmacist about how any
medicine may affect kidney function before
The Gift of Life
Donating a kidney is not always an easy
choice and is not for everyone. A person
should consider the emotional, physical, and
financial factors. The choice to give a
kidney should be made free from any
feelings of family pressure, responsibility,
need for recognition or reasons of financial
gain. Feeling anxious and afraid is very
normal and common. It is our hope that this
handout helps put things into perspective for
you. We also hope this reading will lead to
Our entire staff is happy to answer any
questions. It may even be helpful to talk
with someone who has donated a kidney.
Let your coordinator know if you would like
to do this.
Giving someone your kidney can be very
rewarding and satisfying. Whatever you
decide, make the choice that is right for you.
We suggest the use of Tylenol®
(acetaminophen) for most pain
problems after your kidney donation.
Transplant office number: (608) 263-1384
Fax Number: (608) 262-5624
Main Hospital number 1-800-323-8942 (ask
for the transplant office telephone number
listed above or the department number you
want to reach)
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for
You is #6542.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4530.