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Anesthesia for living kidney donors

Hendrikus J M Lemmens, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Michael Avidan, MD
Daniel C Brennan, MD, FACP
Deputy Editors
Nancy A Nussmeier, MD, FAHA
Alice M Sheridan, MD


Living kidney donors are in good health, with normal kidney function and without chronic illness or clinically significant hypertension. This topic will review anesthetic management of the living donor during nephrectomy, with emphasis on the primary considerations of safety and comfort.

The medical evaluation of a prospective living kidney donor and the risks of donor nephrectomy are reviewed separately. (See "Evaluation of the living kidney donor candidate" and "Risk of living kidney donation".)


Kidneys from living donors have better graft and patient survival rates for the recipient than do kidneys from deceased donors. This is because living donors are physiologically and hemodynamically normal; hence, the graft is not exposed to ischemic alterations associated with brain death or cardiac death in deceased donors. Also, transplantation can be scheduled electively, with both donor and recipient surgeries coordinated at the same facility. This minimizes cold ischemia time for the donated kidney.

In ideal circumstances, kidney transplantation from a living donor is preemptive, so that the recipient with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) avoids the complications of dialysis altogether. (See "Evaluation of the potential renal transplant recipient", section on 'Timing of transplantation referral' and "Renal transplantation in diabetic nephropathy", section on 'Pre-emptive transplantation and living-donor versus deceased kidneys' and "Dialysis issues prior to and after renal transplantation", section on 'Preemptive transplantation'.)

Healthy donors are exposed to some, albeit limited, medical and surgical risks, as well as some degree of postoperative pain. (See "Risk of living kidney donation" and 'Pain' below.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 07, 2017.
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