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Aug 7, 2018

Countdown to Living Donor Surgery: Key Steps

By Kristin Eggebraaten, Relations Coordinator, @keggebraaten

We love keeping up with the transplant discussion group to see what topics are top of mind for recipients. When possible, we use our transplant blog to provide information and fill gaps based on feedback from the group – which led to the development of this post. In this case, we saw a comment from a living donor who wished for a timeline of events leading up to living donor surgery, and then got busy developing one!

As we got started, we realized it’s difficult to provide a detailed timeline because every living donor and recipient’s situation is so different. In general, the recipient’s condition is most often what drives the timeline – but in any case, here are the key steps that must take place before 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 criteria is not met. If you’re contacted by a nurse, the next step is a medical and social phone interview, which will take approximately one hour. The nurse team will go over 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.

5. Follow-Up with Opportunities Identified in Interview. Once a nurse has contacted you, they might have asked you to follow-up on medical or social issues that were identified in the interview or on the form. You may need to lose weight, stop smoking, or take care of family situations before you can be considered as a donor. This could take days to weeks, depending upon your situation and how serious those issues are.

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.

During a living-donor liver transplant, a surgeon places the part of your liver that is removed into the recipient after all of his or her liver is removed. It usually takes several weeks to several months for the liver to return to its normal size in both the recipient and the donor.

1. Recovery. Liver donors usually stay in the hospital for four to seven days after surgery, while kidney donors typically stay two to three days. Most people can resume normal activity within six weeks and can return to work within six to eight weeks, depending on the type of work. Ask your donor team what you can expect with recovery and follow-up care.

As you can see, donation is an involved process, and it takes time to determine who should be the donor and time for them to prepare for donation. If you have questions about donation, leave us a comment!


Thank you for providing concise information for us. I am sure that this article will be referred to by many, and the link sent to potential donors. A gift of living donation of liver or kidney is a wonderful thing to participate in!

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