Please note that we are seeing high patient volumes in the emergency department. Learn more >>.

Know before you go to the ER
Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web

After Kidney Donation: What to Expect

Many potential kidney donors express concerns over how long it will take them to recover and what to expect for their long-term health. We understand the emotional weight of the kidney donation process. Our specialists thoroughly evaluate each patient and support you through every step – from evaluation to comprehensive follow-up care. 

Kidney Donation Recovery: What to Expect

At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our living-kidney specialists use advanced surgical techniques and special recovery protocols. These methods help donors feel better, faster, after kidney donation surgery.

Here’s what you can expect after living kidney donor surgery:

  • Immediately after surgery: Because of our minimally invasive surgical approaches, most donors spend only two or three days in the hospital. Previously, a week-long stay was common after more invasive living donor procedures.
  • Two to three days after surgery: We use special research-backed protocols to help donors feel more comfortable before and after surgery. As we manage pain with fewer narcotics, donors return to normal bowel function sooner after surgery. We allow patients to eat and drink closer to the time of surgery, which also helps stimulate earlier bowel activity after surgery.
  • Three to four weeks after surgery: Most donors feel back to normal three weeks after surgery, sometimes sooner. If your job is particularly demanding, you may need slightly more time before returning to work. Typically, the incision site is red for the first month or so, then begins to fade. As time passes, some patients hardly notice the scar at all.

Comprehensive Follow-Up Care

After living donor surgery, our specialists follow you closely to monitor your health. We also provide comprehensive support and guidance to make sure you have the resources you need for an excellent quality of life. Your long-term care includes:

  • Donor follow-up clinic: At our donor follow-up clinic, we coordinate all aspects of a donor’s postsurgical medical care. With a thorough physical exam and blood testing, we ensure your incision is healing well and your body is completely recovered from surgery. Most donors only need one follow-up visit at our clinic. You are required to have annual labs for the first two years following living donation. You can choose to follow up in our living donor clinic for as long as you would like.
  • Lifelong care coordination: Once you are past the initial recovery period, we transition routine care to your primary care physician. We work closely with your doctor to ensure you remain in the best health after kidney donation surgery.
  • Support services: We provide a wide range of resources to support living donors in their care in the years following living kidney donor surgery.

For more information on the specialists who care for our living kidney donors, meet our kidney transplant team. You can also learn more about how to become a kidney donor.

Contact Us

For more information about the living donor kidney program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.