The Surgical Experience
Female patients must be off birth control pills for a minimum of 4 weeks before surgery. Birth control pills have been shown to increase the risk of developing blood clots. An alternate birth control method should be used, and pregnancy testing will occur on the day of the pre-op visit.
Many activities will happen the day of your pre-op visit. The donor and recipient will first go to the hospital laboratory to have blood drawn for the final crossmatch and some updated lab testing. Both the donor and recipient will be seen in the Transplant Clinic for a pre-operative visit.
If the recipient is on dialysis, he/she will require a dialysis run before the transplant, and the transplant coordinator will make those arrangements.
If you live far from the transplant center, there are two hotels within walking distance of the hospital; Courtyard by Marriott at (916) 455-6800 and Best Western 916-455-4000. They offer discounted rates for patients of UC Davis Medical Center if requested and if there is room availability. Reservations must be made directly by calling the hotel rather than online.
The Kiwanis Family House is another option that may have space available. This is a house on the hospital campus for families of patients in the hospital. It has individual rooms and a common kitchen. RV parking is also available at Kiwanis Family House. The rate is $50 per night for a room or RV parking. The ILDA can assist you in making arrangements for the Kiwanis Family House.
On the morning of surgery, the donor and recipient report to the pre-surgery admissions area in the Pavilion section of the hospital. Maps and instructions will be provided ahead of time.
The actual surgical procedure for the donor will take about three and a half hours. One kidney with its artery, vein, and ureter will be removed and prepared for transplant into the recipient.
The donor surgery is done using laparoscopic technique which results in a quicker recovery time.
After your surgery is completed, you will be taken to the recovery room where you will be closely monitored for a period of time. When the you are fully awake, you will be moved to the Transplant Unit. Non-directed donors will recover on a different unit than the recipient.
While you are in the operating room and recovery room, family can wait in the 3rd Floor Surgical Waiting Area in the Pavilion. Families of non-directed donors will be provided with an alternate waiting area away from the recipient family. After the surgery is completed, the surgeon will talk to the family and report on the surgery. Family may visit when you return to your room.
*Please note: UC Davis Medical Center believes strongly in family centered care, however due to infection risk, the Transplant Unit does not allow visitors under the age of 14. There is a small lobby on the 8th floor where donors can visit with children.
After you return to your room, you will continue to be monitored closely. Your vital signs will be checked frequently and you will be asked to breathe deep and cough periodically. You will still have an IV in your arm, but it will be taken out when you are discharged. Clear liquids are offered early after surgery and a regular diet the morning after surgery. The catheter will be left in your bladder for about 24 hours so all of your urine can be measured to make sure your kidney is working well. Blood tests will be done daily to check your blood count and kidney function.
You will experience pain in your abdomen after surgery but you will be given medication to make it more tolerable. You will stay in bed overnight but after that you will need to walk around the unit several times a day. This will help decrease pain and speed your recovery. You will be discharged 2 days after surgery.
The ILDA will see you in the hospital before discharge to provide you with some written materials about care after donation and plans for follow-up.
After discharge you may continue to have some abdominal pain for approximately one week. You should not lift more than 20 pounds for six weeks, as full recovery from the surgery takes about six weeks. Donors can return to work after six weeks. Some donors who have desk jobs may feel ready to return to work after two weeks. You can resume driving after two weeks and can resume sexual activity whenever you feel comfortable participating.
You will be seen in the clinic by the transplant surgeon and the ILDA one week after discharge from the hospital. If you have any problems after that time that are related to your donation, you may call the transplant center and talk to the living donor nurse. You will also be contacted by the IDA at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after donation.
The transplant team does recommend that living donors avoid long-term use of a class of drugs called NSAIDS. The most common NSAID is Motrin or ibuprofen. These drugs can cause kidney damage over time. They can safely be taken for an injury for a period of two weeks but should not be taken long-term for treatment of problems such as arthritis.
Donors should always receive routine medical care and any treating doctor should know that you have one kidney. The transplant team recommends:
- A yearly physical exam with height, weight, and blood pressure measurement.
- Yearly laboratory studies with urinalysis and blood test called creatinine.
- That you maintain a normal weight and exercise at least 4 times a week for 30 minutes.
- That you get plenty of rest and eat a balanced diet avoiding saturated and trans fats and avoid excessive salt in your diet.
- That you talk to your doctor before taking any over the counter medications or supplements for more than a few weeks.
- That you avoid extreme high impact sports such as cage fighting or kick boxing.