Countdown to Living Donor Surgery: Key Steps

Sep 20 12:30pm | Kristin Eggebraaten | @keggebraaten

We enjoy staying connected with the transplant discussion group to stay informed about the most relevant topics for transplant recipients. Whenever possible, we utilize our transplant blog to address informational gaps identified through feedback from the group. This particular blog post was inspired by a comment from a living donor who expressed a desire for a timeline of events leading up to living donor surgery, prompting us to take action.

As we delved into the topic, we soon realized the challenge of providing a comprehensive timeline due to the unique circumstances surrounding each living donor and recipient. Typically, the recipient's condition plays a pivotal role in determining the timeline. Nevertheless, we have outlined the essential steps that must be undertaken before the surgery.

9. Assessment of Recipient. Before a living donor can be identified, the recipient will undergo an extensive evaluation to be sure transplant is the right option for them, and that they’re medically eligible for surgery. This process could take just a few days or it could take weeks, depending on their condition and tests needed for the recipient.

8. Research and Learn. At the same time the recipient is being evaluated, anyone interested in being a living donor can read, research and learn about the process, risks and benefits of living organ donation. Our living donor toolkit is a good resource for someone at this stage in the process.

7. Fill out the Health History Questionnaire. After becoming comfortable with the donation process and making the decision to proceed, the next step for donors is to fill out the online Health History Questionnaire. Potential donors should complete the form when they have adequate time and space to concentrate on each question.

6. Medical and Social Interview with Living Donor Nurse. Once the online form is submitted, a confirmation email is sent that it’s been received by our team. If there aren’t any initial health issues that disqualify the donor, you’ll be contacted by one of our nurses in the transplant center. If you do not qualify for donation, the form will either provide you with a notice on the screen, not letting you proceed with the questions, or you receive an email letting you know that medical or psychosocial criteria is not met. If you’re contacted by a nurse, the next step is a medical and psychosocial phone interview, which will take approximately 15-30 minutes. The nurse will review your form and collect more details about your history and review any medical conditions you listed. They will also answer your questions about donation, so be sure to have those ready to ask. A phone call may also be scheduled to speak with an Independent Living Donor Advocate and Social Worker to further discuss living donor with you.

4. Schedule and Proceed with Evaluation. Once you’ve been deemed a donor candidate, you’ll undergo a donor evaluation. The timing of this evaluation is determined by your schedule and the condition of the donor. If the donor is ready for transplant and you’re able to come to the transplant center soon, this evaluation process can be completed quickly. Learn more about the donor evaluation here.

3. Schedule Surgery. Once you’ve been cleared by our team to be the living donor, and the recipient is ready to proceed, surgery can be scheduled. The timing of surgery is typically dependent on the donor and recipient’s choice. If we have an operating room and surgeon available, the surgery can happen any time everyone is ready to proceed.

2. Surgery and Hospital Stay. At Mayo Clinic, surgery to donate a kidney is usually done using several small incisions instead of one larger one. This surgery is called laparoscopic surgery, which reduces the time needed to recover following surgery. Kidney donors normally stay in the hospital 1-2 nights.

During a living-donor liver transplant, a surgeon places the part of your liver that is removed into the recipient after all of their liver is removed. It usually takes several weeks to several months for the liver to return to its normal function in both the recipient and the donor.  Liver donors are generally in the hospital 4-7 nights.

1. Recovery. Recovery times may vary, but in general, most individuals can typically resume their normal activities within six weeks following a living organ donation. The timeframe for returning to work may range from six to eight weeks, depending on the nature of your job. It is crucial to consult with your dedicated donor team to gain a clear understanding of what to expect during the recovery process and the necessary follow-up care.

It is important to take activity and lifting restrictions seriously to ensure a successful recovery. Overexertion can hinder the healing process. As a donor, you should be prepared to refrain from lifting, pushing, or pulling anything over 10 pounds for a period of six weeks if donating a kidney, and 12 weeks if donating a portion of your liver. Adhering to these restrictions is essential for your well-being and optimal healing.

We understand the complexity of the donation process and the emotions it entails. If you have questions or concerns, please share them with us. We are here to provide support, guidance, and information, prioritizing your well-being and peace of mind.


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