Is it painful to have surgery to donate your kidney?
I get this question a lot. The answer to this may depend on your prior experience with surgery and pain.
I consider donating a kidney a “normal” laparoscopic surgery pain. I had surgery to remove my left kidney on April 24, 2017. This was the first time I had “major” surgery.
A general anesthetic is used so you are not awake during surgery and don’t feel anything. Typically, a laparoscopic technique is used with 2 small incisions (about 1 inch each), and one longer incision (about 3 inches ) somewhere on your abdomen. After surgery, the nurses will provide pain medication as ordered to minimize your discomfort.
I had a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump. This is where you have an IV connected to your arm and the medication goes in through your veins, working very quickly. You have a button to push whenever you need more medication. The PCA pump is set up so that you cannot get too much medication or cannot get it too frequently, depending on the order. You have control overdosing yourself whenever you are feeling more pain.
After a few days, this will be changed to oral medication, then within a week, I was only taking Tylenol for pain, which was minimal by that time.
Your experiences may be different depending on your doctor and your personal pain tolerance.
Glenna Frey, APRN-CNS, is a nephrology nurse who donated her left kidney in April 2017 (nondirected). She and daughter Amanda Frey co-founded Kidney Donor Conversations in 2018 to increase awareness of Living Kidney Donation.