Risks of living kidney donation

Christine Ribic

Dr Christine Ribic is an associate professor in the Division of Nephrology at McMaster University.

What is the risk associated with becoming a living kidney donor?

Christine Ribic, MD, MSc: Kidney donors are in a sense very selected patients. In healthy, highly selected living donors there really is not an increased risk of end-stage renal disease or death.

In particular, when considering end-stage renal disease, the risk in highly selected healthy donors is only 2 to 4 out of 1000 donors for end-stage renal disease above their baseline end-stage renal disease risk. We know that patients who are obese, black, or related directly to the recipient may be at a slightly increased risk, but it is generally very low.

In terms of death, numerous studies have identified that generally there is not a significantly increased risk of death in living donors. The limitations of these studies are that they are mainly looking at data for out to about 20 years, so this might make it sometimes difficult to counsel younger donors in terms of their life-time risks or their risk of death in the long term, but in general the data to date, all of the studies put together, indicate that there is not an increased risk.

Some signals that we have seen in data repeatedly are a slightly increased risk of hypertension in living donors, increased risk of preeclampsia in women that have not yet finished childbearing, and a potentially increased risk of gout.

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