Risks to living kidney donors minimal, Mayo Clinic study says

(ABC 6 News) — A new Mayo Clinic study concluded that the risks of living kidney donors experiencing major complications from laparoscopic surgery are minimal.

That’s significant, researchers say, as nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. are still waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Patients who receive kidneys from living donors usually have better outcomes, and the kidneys function longer than those from deceased patients.

The study was the largest to date, involving 3,002 living kidney donors between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2019. Mayo tracked complications up to 120 days after surgery. Only 2.5 percent of the patients experienced a major issue, and all of them recovered completely.

"We need to continue to study folks who donate to make sure we are not harming them and that what you’re doing is worthwhile – and that is exactly what this study confirms, that while giving an extremely generous gift to someone else who has end-stage kidney failure, they are also not getting any harm through this process,” Dr. Timucin Taner, the chair of Mayo Clinic’s Division of Transplant Surgery, said.

The results are no surprise to 65-year-old Bethany Krom, who donated a kidney to her work friend’s husband in September of 2021.
Krom said she felt “blessed” to be healthy enough to undergo the surgery. She prepared in advance anyway from February to September – working her way up to six-mile daily walks, after hearing from a friend that if she proved she could walk around the nurses’ station a few times post-surgery, she could leave after a single day.

At Krom’s six-month post-donation checkup, she was in perfect health. While there are always risks to undergoing surgery, Krom said the benefits far outweigh them.

“This just validated retrospectively the work that they have been doing for the last 20 years and to share that, hopefully, will help people understand that it really is a safe thing to do and people do well after surgery,” Krom said. “We have two – God gave us two and one of them is to share.”

April is national Donate Life month. Learn more at www.donoralliance.org, and register to be an organ donor at www.life-source.org.