Before the surgery: To be listed at your transplant center, you will receive a thorough evaluation and testing from the transplant team. Once you are approved, you are added to the deceased donor waitlist, managed by The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). This national registry tracks all transplant candidates and determines their placement on the list. Each organ has their own unique process in regard to the waitlist. At that point, you are also eligible for a living donor and we encourage you to begin the search for living donors when you are ready and comfortable.
The surgery: Kidney / Pancreas transplant surgery takes approximately four hours, depending on a patient’s medical condition and previous surgeries. Patients stay in the hospital for approximately seven days after an uncomplicated surgery. Liver transplant surgery lasts anywhere from six to twelve hours. After an uncomplicated procedure, the average hospital stay is seven days.
After the surgery: Recovery and rehabilitation should be your main concerns after your transplant. Your transplant team, including surgeons, specialists, nurses, dietitians, and social workers will follow you throughout your recovery. Each patient’s path to recovery is different, and it can be months before a patient is fully healed from the surgery. Transplant patients usually return to normal activities within four to eight weeks. It’s important to avoid any heavy lifting during this recovery period.
Evaluation: The evaluation helps determine if, as the donor, you match the recipient. In the first stage of evaluation, you’ll undergo tissue typing and lab screenings. Blood and tissue typing checks to see if you and your recipient are compatible, and how well the kidney will be accepted by the recipient.
This testing will including a full day of appointments and diagnostic testing. During this time, you will also meet with our psychologist, Donor Advocate, and nurse coordinator. Further testing may also be required.
Once the work-up is completed, your case will be presented to the multi-disciplinary transplant team. This team includes surgeons, nephrologists, psychologists, donor advocates, and nurse coordinators. They represent you and make decisions that are in your best interest regarding the transplant.
It is important to note that, as a donor, you will have a different transplant team from your recipient. Your team cares for you exclusively. It is a common fear that donors are viewed as a kidney and not as a person; however, organ donors are given the same considerations and respect as all of our patients.
Note: At any time during the evaluation process, up until the moment of surgery, you are entitled to change your mind about the donation. This decision is made with your physicians and is kept completely confidential.
Surgery and Recovery: If you are approved for the donation after all of the tests are completed, the surgery will be scheduled. The surgery is usually scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Typically, a living kidney transplant donor spends two days in the hospital, and will have an additional four to six weeks of recovery time. Typically, a liver donor spends approximately seven days in the hospital, and will have an additional six to eight weeks of recovery time.
During recovery, you will experience some pain and discomfort. This should be easily relieved with either a prescribed medication or over-the-counter pain relievers. For two weeks, you should avoid driving, and you should avoid picking up anything that weighs more than ten pounds for six weeks following surgery. You are encouraged to walk several times a day. If you have children, you may need initial help in caring for them.
Depending on the type of work you do, you may be able to return to your job as soon as two or as long as eight weeks after surgery. There will be follow-up tests to monitor your health.