Study: Most Living Donors Would Do It Again

A German study found that living kidney donation is safe and most donors report that they would donate again. Still, a small percentage of living kidney donors may experience physical or mental discomforts following donation.

Researchers studied 128 living kidney donors and found that fewer than 10% of them reported impaired quality of life directly related to kidney donation.

“Currently in Germany there is a discussion about chronic fatigue syndrome after living kidney donation,” said investigator Ralf Dikow, MD, a nephrologist at the Renal Transplant Center of University Hospital of Heidelberg. “There are a few patients who are very politically active going about saying that nephrologists do a bad job and we are harming people. So we said ‘okay, let's have a look at our patients.'”

Living donors are involved in 28% of renal transplants in Germany and 40% of renal transplants in Dr. Dikow's institution. Until now, there have been limited published data on short- and long-term quality of life and psychosocial outcomes in renal allograft donors.

In a prospective, observational study, Dr. Dikow and his colleagues used standardized questionnaires (ZERSSEN Symptom Score, SF-12) and additional questions specifically related to living donation.  Of the 128 kidney donors, 46 were male. The mean age was 52.7 years and the mean time after transplantation was 3.7 years.

None of the donors had serious post-transplant complications and all had stable renal function.  The vast majority reported that they were satisfied with their present health; only 18 donors reported they were dissatisfied. Thirteen donors reported a quality of life that was worse than before donation, and 13 reported that their discomforts were caused by kidney donation.

“We found that 98% [of donors] said that they would donate again,” Dr. Dikow said. “Only 10% reported problems and the problems were mainly about sleepiness, back pain, lack of concentration and also abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems.”

In a separate study presented at the conference, researchers led by Shiv Kapoor, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found that nephrectomies performed on living donors are associated with significant changes in endothelial function, bone metabolism, and cytokines that could influence future health outcomes. Their findings are based on a study in which they obtained blood samples from 32 living donors (mean age 40.2 years) who donated a kidney at the University of Pennsylvania or the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The donors also experienced modest reductions in glomerular filtration rate and increases in microalbuminuria, he said.

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