Donating a kidney doesn't appear to have any long-term health consequences for the donor, a study shows.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found those who gave up a kidney lived a normal life span and were as healthy as people in the general population. And the donation didn't raise the risk of kidney failure later.
Kidney donation has generally been considered safe, although with surgery, there are always risks. The new research of nearly 3,700 donors dating back more than four decades is the largest and longest study to look at long-term outcomes, said the researchers. They reported their findings in today's New England Journal of Medicine.
“It is a confirmation that living donation is a safe thing,” said Dr. Matthew Cooper, a University of Maryland transplant surgeon who was not involved in the research.
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Living donation has increased as more people became willing to donate and newer surgery techniques shortened recovery time. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, the study's leader, and his colleagues wanted to find out what happened to the 3,698 people who had donated a kidney at the university since 1963. They tried to contact everyone and used government records to find out who had died. A group of 255 donors was randomly selected to have kidney and other tests. Results were compared with health outcomes for the general population.
Overall, 268 of the donors died, which the researchers said was comparable to survival in the general population. Eleven donors developed kidney failure decades later and needed dialysis or a transplant. The researchers said the rate of kidney failure in the donors was lower than that reported in the general population.