Mayo Clinic transplant doctors, surgeons and other transplant staff members have extensive experience with living donation for kidney and liver transplants.

Mayo Clinic surgeons perform living-donor transplant surgery for liver transplant and kidney transplant. In addition to donating living organs, you also may donate bone marrow for a bone marrow transplant.

Living kidney donation has been used in transplantation for more than 50 years. Many studies have shown that kidney donation is safe in the short and long term after surgery.

However, you'll need to have surgery to donate a kidney, and you'll then be exposed to some risks. To minimize risks, you'll need to have extensive testing to ensure you're eligible to donate a kidney. Living kidney donors are generally not at an increased risk of kidney failure in the future.

The risks of living liver donation are also low, but experience with this procedure is more limited because it was introduced into medical practice more recently than was kidney donation. Living liver donation may involve risks such as surgical complications or acute liver failure. Deaths after donation have occurred rarely.

Researchers actively study the health of donors after transplant surgery to improve results. Read more about liver transplant outcomes and kidney transplant outcomes.

Donor evaluation

A multidisciplinary transplant team will evaluate you to determine if you're a candidate to be a living donor. Different transplant team members will perform evaluations and surgeries for you and your recipient.

During an evaluation, your transplant team has several goals. The team will evaluate your general physical and mental health to make sure that undergoing living-donor surgery offers few risks for you.

Also, during the evaluation the team will check to ensure that the organ you're planning to donate is healthy and that removing either one of your kidneys or a portion of your liver is unlikely to cause health problems later in life.

You'll have blood tests to determine if your blood and tissue types are compatible with the organ recipient.

Transplant staff will interview you, and you'll need to provide your medical history. You'll also have a thorough physical examination and psychological evaluation. Your evaluation is confidential.

Doctors will perform tests to look for pre-existing conditions that may disqualify you from being a donor, such as diabetes, cancer, some infectious diseases, heart diseases or other conditions.

Several other tests, including detailed imaging of your liver or kidneys, will be performed to ensure that you're in good health and you meet donation criteria. If you're a potential liver donor, doctors will review your imaging tests to determine if the size of your liver is the appropriate size for the recipient.

Transplant staff will discuss with you and your family the benefits and risks of donating a kidney or a portion of your liver and answer your questions. Staff will also discuss the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and after donating an organ.

Donation risks

Donating an organ is a gift that can improve the quality of life or possibly save the life of the organ recipient. However, you also should consider the potential risks of donating an organ, such as surgical complications, organ failure and psychological problems.

If you're a liver donor, you should consider the potential risks of surgical complications in living liver donation surgery. Liver transplant surgery is a complex surgery that involves risks of surgical complications for the recipient, and it isn't always successful.

If possible, bring a family member or friend with you for your evaluation and surgery. It may be helpful for you to discuss your decision to donate with a family member or friend.

If you're committed to donating an organ, your transplant team will partner with you and your local health care provider throughout the living-donor transplantation process. Your team will also be available to answer any questions you have about the donation process.

Living donation is a complicated process. Transplant staff understands and expects you to have many questions. Doctors and other staff are available to answer your questions.

Surgery

  • Living kidney donation. Surgeons generally perform minimally invasive surgery to remove a living-donor's kidney (laparoscopic nephrectomy) for a kidney transplant, which involves less pain and a shorter recovery. Mayo Clinic surgeons have extensive experience performing laparoscopic nephrectomies.

    After you donate a kidney, you'll generally spend two or three days in the hospital recovering and be able to return to daily activities after two to four weeks.
  • Living liver donation. For living liver donation, surgeons remove a portion of your liver through an incision in the side of your abdomen. Read more about living-donor liver transplant. After you donate part of your liver, you'll spend about a week in the hospital recovering, and you may return to daily activities after two to three months.

After your surgery

  • Care after your surgery. If you live several hours away from Mayo Clinic, doctors recommend that you stay near Mayo Clinic for a few days after you leave the hospital so that they can monitor your health.
  • Follow-up care. Your transplant team will coordinate your follow-up care with your local primary health care provider.

    After you donate, living-donor coordinators and other transplant staff members will offer you support and follow-up care for several months after your surgery. Transplant staff is committed to your care after you donate an organ.

    If you've donated a kidney, your transplant team will coordinate your follow-up care after your surgery.

    Your doctors will require you to come to follow-up appointments at Mayo Clinic six months after your surgery for blood tests, kidney function tests and blood pressure monitoring. You'll need to have laboratory tests to check your kidney function one year and two years after your surgery.

    If you've donated part of a liver, doctors will perform an ultrasound of your liver about a week after your surgery. You'll have laboratory tests every two weeks, two or three times, so doctors can determine when your liver function has returned to normal.

    You'll also need to have laboratory tests six months, one year and two years after your surgery to test your liver function.

    Your local health care provider may conduct your laboratory tests one and two years after your kidney or liver surgery. Mayo staff will notify you about which tests you'll need. If you have tests near home, you'll need to send the laboratory test results to Mayo Clinic.
  • Lifestyle after your surgery. It's important to continue to stay healthy and keep a healthy lifestyle.

Read more about a healthy diet, fitness, high blood pressure (hypertension) and the BMI calculator.

Aug. 12, 2014