How Safe is Kidney Donation?
When thinking about donating an organ such as a kidney, it is important to consider this decision. Regardless of the need for kidneys, the transplant will only take place if kidneys donor requirements are fulfilled so health is not put at risk.
In order to do it so, many efforts must be taken to minimize the problems. Because donating an organ is not risk-free, the team in charge will discuss the main problems a donor can have while being in the procedure and decide how convenient it is to donate, depending on the donor’s lifestyle and medical history.
Potential kidney donors
Nowadays, the transplantation of organs is considered to be one of the most remarkable triumphs of medicine. The United Network for Organ Sharing states that in 2013 over 77.000 people in the United States waited for organ transplants.
Only 77 people could obtain an organ; but unfortunately, 18 people died as a suitable organ was not found in time. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, one of the reasons is that some potential donors, as well as their organs, must fulfill the requirements.
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Testing Possible Donors
The evaluation aims to guarantee that kidneys donor requirements are complete so they will not be affected after the surgery and the procedure of transplanting the kidney to the recipient is successful.
This evaluation can take over half a year, taking into account the donor`s health and the way tests are scheduled. In order to begin the evaluation, doctors will run a blood evaluation of both, the recipient and the donor, to assure the match. Other tests include:
- Checking the blood pressure of the donor as well as the heart rate and functions of the lungs.
- Women must have the test known as Papanicolaou. Also a mammogram, and a colonoscopy for those donors over 50 years and more.
- Donors must be assisted by a social worker or a counselor.
- Donors must have a Computer Tomography Scan to evaluate the blood vessels in the kidney.
Living kidney donors requirements
Generally, kidneys that have been given for transplant come from deceased people or family members who gave permission for the donation.
Nevertheless, these organs are not enough for those people who desperately need one. Nationally speaking, there are over 77.000 people on a list and the number increase everyday.
In general, those patients who receive a kidney from a living rather than a dead donor have a tendency to live longer. Kidney donors can range from 18 to 70 years and ought to be in good health.
They don’t necessarily have to be related to the recipient, but must share the same blood type. People who are considered as potential donors should not suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, cancer, sickle-cell anemia or heart disease, but some medical centers could consider one of this conditions if needed.
They also have to be psychologically evaluated. Living donors should fulfill the following requirements:
- Donors must have good mental and physical health
- Donors must be 18 years old at least
- Donors must be willing to give the organ. The person does not have to feel obliged to donate.
- Donors must be well informed about the procedure as they have to know risks and potential outcomes, for they need a written informed consent process.
Once living donors offer the kidney which is later transplanted to the recipient, the remaining organ works for two, for they will need regular medical examinations for the rest of their lives.
Death donors requirements
Deceased donors are generally under 60 years old and were in good health with no conditions such as cancer or any infection that could be transmitted to the recipient. Deceased donors must have a blood type similar or compatible that matches the recipient’s.
One of the requirements considered as mandatory in deceased-donors is “Brain Death” which is the loss of the functions of the brain while the heart is still beating. The heart beating assures the regular blood supply to the kidney so it remains in optimal condition.
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Kidney transplant procedure
The procedure has to be explained in details by the doctor before to the surgery and it takes over four hours. In the operation, the surgeon lays the kidney in the pelvis instead of the usual back position.
The artery in charge of carrying blood to the kidney as well as the vein that is responsible for removing the blood from the organ are connected in the surgery to a couple of blood containers in the pelvis. After that, the ureter, in charge of carrying the urine from the kidney to the bladder, gets transplanted by a cut in the latter.
Once the operation is over, recipients stay for recovery a few hours and later are taken to the Unit for Kidney Transplant. Finally, the doctor will inform the family once the procedure is done.
Doctors will encourage patients to leave the bed 12 or 24 hours after the procedure and take walks as much as possible. In addition, they will be instructed to take medications as well as the possible effects and changes in the lifestyle.
Most recipients need to take immunosuppressants, which prevent the rejection of the organ already transplanted. A common side effect of this anti-rejection drug is the increase risk of cancer, mainly cancer in the skin as well as lymphoma.
Patients who go through a kidney transplant laparoscopic surgery require a three-day hospital stay. After being discharged from the medical center, the patient is taken to a care unit in the transplant clinic when available. Donors, under this kind of procedure, generally get back to work few weeks later.
In most of the cases, this kind of surgery is paid by the recipient’s insurance which includes hospitalization diagnostic tests and evaluation. Travel and living expenses are not included.
Can anybody who smokes or takes drugs be a donor?
Smokers can become donors, but they should give up smoking for health reasons. If people stop smoking, they will reduce the risks of going under the anesthesia or any possible complication after the surgery. Surgeons will decide if it is safe to donate depending on how much the donor smokes and the condition of the lungs.
In conclusion, potential donors can be family members or anyone willing to donate and must be18 years old at least. They don’t have to be necessarily the same race or sex as the recipient. Kidney donors requirements are closely evaluated to determine if the surgery doesn’t affect the health of the donor and if the blood is the perfect match for the recipient.