Thursday, May 6, 2010

How Safe is Live Kidney Donation?

It’s been about 60 years since the first live kidney donor operation. There have been scattered reports that kidney donation is safe, but most published studies have been limited in scope and used inappropriate control groups against which to compare mortality statistics.

A recent report strengthens the hypothesis that live kidney donation is relatively safe. The report compares mortality data for essentially all 80,347 live kidney donors in the United States between 1994 and 2009 to a carefully matched control group of people who were eligible to donate but were not asked to do so. Mortality statistics were followed in both groups for up to 12 years (median 6.3 years) after donation by the live kidney donor group.

The results indicate that there is a small risk of death from the surgical procedure itself, as would be expected of any similar major surgical procedure. Early post-surgical (three-month) mortality was 3.1 per 10,000 kidney donors, compared to 0.4 deaths in the control group over a similar three-month period. After that, however, there were no differences in survival between the donor and control groups out to 12 years.

The results support the hypothesis that there is no long-term mortality risk associated with live kidney donation except for the usual risks of surgery. Presumably a follow-up study will be done in years ahead to extend the definition of “long-term” to beyond 12 years.

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