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Transplantation. 1997 Oct 27;64(8):1124-8.

Complications and risks of living donor nephrectomy.

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Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.



Short- and long-term patient and graft survival rates are better for living donor (vs. cadaver) kidney transplant recipients. However, donor nephrectomy is associated with at least some morbidity and mortality. We have previously estimated the mortality of living donor nephrectomy to be 0.03%. In our present study, to determine associated perioperative morbidity, we reviewed donor nephrectomies performed at our institution from January 1, 1985, to December 31, 1995.


The records of 871 donors were complete and available for review. Of these donors, 380 (44%) were male and 491 (56%) were female. The mean age at the time of donation was 38 years (range: 17-74 years), and mean postoperative stay was 4.9 days (range: 2-14 days).


We noted two (0.2%) major complications: femoral nerve compression with resulting weakness, and a retained sponge that required reexploration. We noted 86 minor complications in 69 (8%) donors: 22 (2.4%) suspected wound infections (only 1 wound was opened), 13 (1.5%) pneumothoraces (6 required intervention, 7 resolved spontaneously), 11 (1.3%) unexplained fevers, 8 (0.9%) instances of operative blood loss > or = 750 ml (not associated with other complications), 8 (0.9%) pneumonias (all of which resolved quickly with antibiotics alone), 5 (0.6%) wound hematomas or seromas (none were opened), 4 (0.5%) phlebitic intravenous sites, 3 (0.3%) urinary tract infections, 3 (0.3%) readmissions (2 for pain control and 1 for mild confusion that resolved with discontinuation of narcotics), 3 (0.3%) cases of atelectasis, 2 (0.2%) corneal abrasions, 1 (0.1%) subacute epididymitis, 1 (0.1%) Clostridium difficile colitis, 1 (0.1%) urethral trauma from catheter placement, and 1 (0.1%) enterotomy. At our institution, no donor died or required ventilation or intensive care. We noted no myocardial infarctions, deep wound infections, or reexplorations for bleeding. Analysis, by logistic regression, identified these significant risk factors for perioperative complications: male gender (vs. female, P<0.001), pleural entry (vs. no pleural entry, P<0.004), and weight > or = 100 kg (vs. < 100 kg, P<0.02). Similar analysis identified these significant risk factors for postoperative stay > 5 days: operative duration > or = 4 hr (vs. < 4 hr, P<0.001) and age > or = 50 years (vs. < 50 years, P<0.001).


Living donor nephrectomy can be done with little major morbidity. The risks of nephrectomy must be balanced against the better outcome for recipients of living donor transplants.

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