Currently, my uncle is first in line for a kidney transplant. All of us in the family (and more than a few friends) have been tested to see if we match. Unfortunately, my uncle has O+ blood and a unique antibody that must match perfectly for a successful donation. This combination has been a tough match so far. I had lunch with my uncle a couple of weeks ago, and he expressed to me how amazed he was at the willingness of, not just family, but friends to get tested and offer their spare kidney if they were a match. I have to say, I was amazed too. Even as family, one cannot help but think of the health ramifications for the donor.
I think it serendipitous that I came across a new study that confirms what the healthcare professionals assured all of us who were tested– donating a kidney does not have long-term health consequences for the donor. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found those who gave up one of their two kidneys lived a normal life span and were as healthy as people in the general population.
Living donation has increased as more people became willing to donate and newer surgery techniques shortened recovery time. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Most of the donors tested had good kidney function and reported an excellent quality of life, the study found.
The good outcomes likely reflect the strict criteria used to pick the donors, the researchers said. The donors had to be healthy with no kidney problems, and be free of high blood pressure and diabetes — two main causes of kidney disease.
While there are no regulations for selecting living donors, the transplant network offers guidelines, said Cooper, who heads a UNOS committee on living donors. He said any kidney donor who later needs a transplant is given priority on the waiting list.
“There is a recognition of the sacrifice that these people have made,” Cooper said.
Hopefully, this news will be as reassuring to you as it was to me, and the trend for increasing live donations will continue. For more information about this study, visit http://www.ahc.umn.edu/news/LivingKidneyDonors/index.htm.