Living Kidney Donors:
Caring for Yourself After Surgery
Living kidney donors typically spend 2 to 3 days recovering in the hospital and can return to their normal level of activity within 4 to 6 weeks. The first few days after surgery, kidney donors are made comfortable with patient-controlled pain medicine. Because the kidney donor operation is a major surgical procedure, donors find they have less energy and need about 4 to 6 weeks to return to their full pre-surgical activity level.
You will receive a prescription of pain medication called Vicodin® when you leave the hospital. If you experience pain, you should take 1-2 pills every 6 hours. Most donors have pain that requires Vicodin® for 1 to 3 weeks following discharge.
You should avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin®, Aleve®, Advil® and ibuprofen if possible because they can damage your remaining kidney.
Danger Signals To Watch For
If you develop the following:
- Fever over 101° or chills
- Fluid discharge, redness or swelling around your incision
- Increasing or persistent pain
- Painful urination or more frequent urination
Because the kidney donor operation is a major surgical procedure, you will find that you have less energy and will need about 4-6 weeks before you return to your full pre-surgical activity level. Start with walking around your home and performing your usual activities. As your energy level builds and you heal, you may increase your activity. Because of your incision, it is important to not lift anything heavier than 10-20 pounds (about as heavy as a bag of groceries) for at least 3 weeks following discharge. If you worked prior to surgery, your disability coverage allows you six weeks off to recover. Some patients feel well enough to return to work earlier. Keep in mind that you should not drive until you are off of pain medications.
You will be discharged with steri-strips across your wound to help it heal. These strips will curl and fall off in about two weeks.
You will shower in the hospital the day you are discharged and can shower once you return home. You should not bathe in a bathtub, jacuzzi, whirlpool or hot tub, or swim in a pool for 2 weeks following discharge because of the possibility of infection.
There is no special diet you need to follow, so you can eat your usual foods. It is a good idea, in general, to drink 6-8 glasses of liquid a day.
Before you leave the hospital, a 2-week follow up visit will be scheduled with the transplant staff. It is important that you keep this appointment, even if you feel fine. The appointment is necessary to check your wound, blood pressure and overall health.
Additionally, we offer a Living Donor Wellness Clinic to monitor your overall health following kidney donation. We request that you visit this clinic at 6 months, and then 1 and 2 years following your donor surgery. We will send you a reminder regarding this visit. Regular yearly visits with your primary care physician are also encouraged.
You should arrange to have a family member or friend drive you home when you are discharged from the hospital. If you need transportation home, the social worker will try to help you set it up. Insurance does not usually pay for transportation home.
Please remember that each person is different, so your recovery may vary from other kidney donors. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your nurse coordinator.
About California Pacific Medical Center
California Pacific Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health network, offers kidney, pancreas, liver and heart transplantation as part of our Barry S. Levin, MD Department of Transplant.
Kidney & Pancreas Transplant Program
California Pacific Medical Center
2340 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Outreach locations available throughout Northern California and in Reno.