Living Donation Q&A

Part 2: Life and Health After Living Donation


Can living kidney donors live a healthy life with a single kidney?

Studies suggest that people can live a normal, healthy life with one kidney. Living kidney donors are carefully screened to ensure they are healthy before living donation can take place. They are encouraged to have regular checkups and follow a healthy lifestyle.

Can living liver donors live a healthy life with a portion of their liver removed?

Living-donor liver transplant is possible because of the liver’s ability to regenerate. A living liver donor can have a portion of their liver removed and it will regenerate or grow back within a few months after surgery. While recovery times may vary, most living liver donors are able to return to their pre-donation level of health within a few months after donating. Donors are required to follow-up with the transplant hospital for two years following both kidney and liver donation.

Does living organ donation shorten the donor’s life expectancy?

No, there is no evidence that living donation shortens a lifespan.

Are living kidney donors more likely to get kidney disease?

Living kidney donors are counseled about their individual risks associated with donation. The transplant team educates donors about the expected post-donation kidney function. In general, the risk of kidney disease does not exceed that of the general population with the same demographic profile.

Are living liver donors at more risk for liver disease?

Acute liver failure occurs in 0.1% of liver donors and usually occurs in the first three months after donation. After that your liver has grown back. However, you should continue to maintain healthy habits and follow up with your medical team to monitor your liver health.

Are living donors able to participate in sports or exercise?

A kidney donor should be able to return to regular activities and exercise about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. For liver donors the time could be a few months. Check with your transplant hospital for more details.

Do living donors have to take medications for the rest of their lives?

Generally, prescriptions for pain and stool softeners will be necessary in the immediate post-operative period only.

What should a living donor expect after surgery?

Ordinarily, there will be some pain after surgery, which will diminish and can be controlled with pain medication. For kidney donors it will be about one week and for liver donors about 2 to 3 weeks. Donors should plan to have a caregiver after returning home from surgery for a short time period. Check with the transplant hospital for more details.

Will a living donor be in the hospital for an extended period of time after surgery?

A kidney donor will be hospitalized on average for 1 to 2 nights. A liver donor will be hospitalized on average for 4 to 7 nights. Liver donors may spend at least 1 night in the ICU for monitoring. A donor will have some follow-up appointments after hospital discharge.

Does a living donor have to follow a new diet plan following donation?

A donor should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, but there are no dietary restrictions.

Can a living donor consume alcohol following donation?

Excessive alcohol use is always dangerous. For liver donors, alcohol abstinence should occur for one month prior to surgery and for three months following donation. No specific restrictions for kidney donors.

Should a living donor avoid pregnancy after donation?

A donor should wait to become pregnant until medically cleared after donation.

Will a living donor’s sex life be negatively affected by donation?

Donors may engage in sexual activity when they feel well enough to do so.