Kidney donation surgery

There are two types of surgery: laparoscopic and open nephrectomy. Most donors have laparoscopic. The transplant team will tell you which you are having before surgery.  

Laparoscopic surgery*

Known as "minimally invasive surgery," laparoscopic surgery uses smaller incisions than an open nephrectomy. This results in a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery time.

The surgeon makes an incision in your abdomen and guides a laparoscope to the kidney. The laparoscope looks like a wand with a camera on the end. The camera shows your kidney and blood vessels on a computer screen. The surgeon makes other smaller incisions to remove the kidney. The average hospital stay is two to three days.

*If you are having a laparoscopic surgery and problems happen during surgery, you may need to have an open nephrectomy. (This is rare.)

Open nephrectomy

Known as major surgery, an open nephrectomy uses a larger incision in your side than laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon makes an incision in your side and removes the kidney. The average hospital stay is three to five days.

If you are traveling for surgery

If you are traveling for surgery, you can stay near Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown Hotel is located next to the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus. For reservation and other information, call 1-800-325-3535 or 612-821-7600.

Surgery information

Last pre-surgery visit

Both you and the recipient will have a final hospital visit before surgery. This visit happens about one week before surgery. At this visit you will:

  • have a history and physical exam
  • have blood tests, including a second and final cross-match
  • have the chance to talk with the surgeon to ask questions or talk about your concerns
  • receive pre-surgery medicines
  • receive instructions for the morning of surgery
  • sign consent forms

What to bring to the hospital

For your convenience during your hospital stay, consider the following suggestions.

  • Bring a current list of your medicines, including the dosages and the times you take them.
  • If you have a health care directive document (living will), bring a copy.
  • Bring personal care items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, denture cleanser, comb, skin care products, deodorant, make-up and/or shaving kit.
  • If you wear glasses or contacts, bring storage containers for them. Put your name on each container.
  • If you wear hearing aids, bring a storage container and extra batteries. Put your name on the container.
  • If you want to wear a gown or robe other than what the hospital supplies, bring your own.
  • Bring shorts or undergarments to wear under your hospital gown or robe.
  • Bring clothing to wear home, including socks, shoes (comfortable, supportive with nonslip soles), undergarments, shirt and loose pants or a sweat suit. Bring a warm coat if it's cold outside.
  • Leave valuables at home or with your family. You may want to bring a little money for buying newspapers or magazines.
  • All rooms have a television and phone. You may want to bring a book or magazines.

Anesthesia information

General anesthesia puts you to sleep so you do not feel the surgery. An anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) will give you the anesthesia.

The anesthetic (type of medicine used) affects your entire body. You will receive the anesthetic through an injection (shot) or by breathing it. A breathing tube helps you breathe while you are asleep. The anesthesiologist of CRNA stays with you during the entire surgery.

After surgery, you may have a few side effects from the anesthesia. They are:

  • dry mouth
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • hoarseness
  • nausea
  • drowsiness

What to do the day before surgery

  • Tell your doctor if you have any changes in your physical condition (sore throat, cold, fever, dental problems, urinating problem) or skin condition (rash, cuts). Surgery may need to be postponed.
  • Ask a member of your health care team if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Learn more in Food and Liquid Directions Before Surgery.

What to do the morning of surgery

  • Take your morning medicine(s) as directed. You may have to take your medicine(s) with a small sip of water.
  • Bathe or shower as you usually would. No special soap is needed.
  • Arrive at the hospital two hours before your surgery.

When you arrive at the hospital

  • You may bring family members with you. If you have small children, please make arrangements for their care.
  • Arrive at the hospital two hours before your scheduled surgery. (If surgery is scheduled for 7:30 a.m., arrive at 5:30 a.m.)
  • Go to the Virginia Piper Building, located at the corner of 26th Street and 10th Street.
  • Check in at the Piper Building admitting desk, located on the first floor.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Kidney Transplant Information for Recipients and Donors, renal_ahc_93498
Reviewed By: Allina Patient Education experts, including the Transplantation Department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital
First Published: 05/15/2009
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2009

Did you know?
Most often, the left kidney is donated.