What Really Happens When You Donate a Kidney?

hologram of kidneys

If someone you loved needed a kidney transplantation, would you donate one of your kidneys to them? How about a complete stranger, would you consider going under the knife to prolong a stranger’s life? Many of us say we’ll donate. But, is it a genuine sentiment or something we say to sound loving and heroic?

Approximately 123,000 Americans are on a waiting list to receive an organ transplant. At least 101,000 of those people are waiting for a kidney transplant. That number may not sound unattainable. But, only 17,000 people actually receive kidney transplants per year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

There are two types of kidney transplantations: those that come from living donors (usually a loved one) and those that come from non-living donors (usually a stranger). A kidney transplantation from living donors lasts about five years longer than those from non-living donors, according to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The Procedure

The average kidney transplantation surgery lasts for about three hours.

“Shortly before going into surgery, medicine is given to the patients to help them relax. A general anesthetic is then given. The donor and recipient are in adjacent operating rooms. The transplant surgeon removes the kidney from the donor and prepares it for transplant into the recipient,” according to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“There, the surgeon connects the renal artery and vein of the new kidney to the recipient’s artery and vein. This creates blood flow through the kidney, which makes urine. The ureter, or tube coming down from the donor kidney, is sewn into the bladder. Usually, the new kidney will start working right away. Sometimes, it takes several days for the donor kidney to “wake up.”