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How Long is the Recovery Time After Kidney Donation Surgery?

National Kidney Registry

If you are thinking about or planning to donate a kidney, you may be wondering how long it will take to recover from the kidney donor surgery.

The recovery time after living kidney donation surgery will vary depending on several factors, including the type of surgery (laparoscopic vs traditional kidney removal) and the donor’s individual rate of recovery.

Typically, a living kidney donor will be in the hospital for one to three days after donation. Following discharge, donors will be given a prescription for oral pain medicine to take as needed. Your doctor will review the procedures and guidelines you should follow during your recovery, as well as timeline for your specific case.

You should continue to feel better every day, though it is not uncommon to feel fatigued for several weeks. You should shower regularly (no baths until after six weeks), washing your incision with soap and water and carefully patting it dry.

You should be able to eat normally, focusing on healthy, nutritious foods to encourage healing. Your transplant team includes a dietitian who can discuss your specific diet needs and questions with you.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules for recovery from kidney donor surgery, following are some general guidelines for when kidney donors should be able to resume a variety of common activities.

Normal Activity: Kidney donors should slowly resume activity at their own pace, making sure to walk daily and avoid spending too much time in bed. Most kidney donors can return to normal activities within two to six weeks after the kidney donation surgery.

Transportation: Donors should refrain from flying for a minimum of one week after surgery. Some transplant centers may also recommend that donors not drive a car for one to two weeks after surgery. Do not drive a car or operate machinery if you are taking narcotic pain medicine.

Return to Work: Donors can usually return to work in two to six weeks after surgery, depending on the donor’s occupation and individual recovery rate. Donors covered by Donor Shield are eligible for reimbursement of lost wages, up to a maximum of $2,000 per week for up to six weeks.

Physically Demanding Jobs: Donors with physically demanding jobs may need four to six weeks of recovery time before returning to work. The more physical exertion the donor’s job requires, the longer the expected recovery time.

Heavy Lifting: For the first four weeks after kidney donor surgery, donors should not lift anything heavier than 10 lbs. Heavy lifting is not recommended for about six weeks following surgery.

Athletic Activity & Sports: Donors can resume exercise gradually, from walking and light chores immediately after discharge to more active aerobic exercise four to six weeks after surgery. Donors may be advised to avoid contact sports or other strenuous activities, or to wear protective gear to avoid injury to the remaining kidney. High-performance or competitive athletes may need six to 12 months before they are back to pre-donation performance levels.

The above are general guidelines only. Be sure to speak to your transplant team about your individual physical activity goals and needs, and always follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your kidney donation surgery recovery.

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