Common Myths About Living Donation

MYTH: I will be infertile if I donate.

FACT: Many living kidney donors (male and female) have children after donating.  There is no evidence that living kidney donation results in infertility.
See our module on pregnancy and fertility for more information.

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MYTH: My religion does not support organ donation.

FACT: Most major religions – including Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism, most Protestant faiths, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mormonism – support organ and tissue donation.  These religions view donation as an act of charity and goodwill which is in keeping with their faith traditions.
For a more comprehensive list of religions that support organ donation, please see our module on religion.

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MYTH: You can only donate a kidney to a family member (a blood relative).

FACT: This used to be true, but it is no longer the case.  Now, you can donate to family members, friends, or even strangers. The main limitation is not blood relation, but whether your blood types (O, A, B, AB) match and whether you are physically and mentally healthy enough to be a donor. There are ways to donate even if your blood type does not match.
For more information, please visit our module on matching.

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MYTH: If you donate a kidney, you have to take medications for the rest of your life.

FACT: Most donors take some pain medications and stool softeners during the first few weeks after surgery to make them more comfortable, but there are no medications required after donating a kidney.

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MYTH: If you donate a kidney, you will be in extreme pain for a long time.

FACT: In the past, when living kidney donation was new, the donated kidney was removed through a large incision.  It took a long time for donors to recover from this surgery.  Now, we do the entire operation through small incisions (each about ½ inch long), with one slightly larger incision (2 inches long) where we remove the kidney. We try to get donors up and walking the day after surgery. This helps to relieve pain by reducing the buildup of gas in the belly (one common cause of pain). Most living donors leave the hospital after two nights. They are given pain medications that they can take by mouth while they continue to recover.  Most donors take about four to six weeks to recover before returning to work full-time. Long-term, some donors report feeling a “pull” in the area of their incisions due to scar tissue, but there should be no long-term pain.

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MYTH: Living kidney donors are put on bed rest following surgery and stay in the hospital for a long time.

FACT: We get our living kidney donors up and walking on the first day after surgery. This reduces pain and also helps to prevent complications like blood clots. Most living kidney donors leave the hospital two days after surgery, once they are able to walk and urinate and their pain is controlled. We encourage living kidney donors to walk as much as they can as they recover, although they should avoid any heavy lifting for six weeks after surgery. This allows their incisions to heal.

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MYTH: You cannot exercise or play sports after kidney donation surgery.

FACT: We get our living kidney donors up and walking on the first day after surgery. Living donors can return to more strenuous exercise about six weeks after donation.  This allows the incision sites (the cuts they make for your surgery) to heal. There are some sports that we tell living kidney donors to avoid after donation surgery, such as kickboxing. This is not because the donors are unable to do these activities but because we want them to protect their remaining kidney.

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MYTH: You need to follow a special diet after surgery.

FACT: There is no special diet that living kidney donors must follow. However, donors should eat a healthy diet, something that we recommend to everyone. In order to protect their remaining kidney from long-term damage, we do recommend that donors avoid significant weight gain, get checked regularly for high blood pressure or diabetes, and avoid eating an excessive amount of protein. These steps will help keep the remaining kidney healthy.

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MYTH: You cannot drink alcohol after living kidney donation.

FACT: After living kidney donation, you can still drink alcohol. We recommend that everyone – donors and nondonors – only consume alcohol in moderation (no binge drinking). Some living donors report that, after donation, a few drinks affect them more than it used to, but this has not been well-studied.

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MYTH: You cannot have sex for a long time after living kidney donation.

FACT: Living kidney donors can resume sexual activity as soon as they feel able. Your body may need some time to heal and adjust after surgery, but you can have sex as soon as you are comfortable.

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MYTH: There is no need to donate because patients do just as well on dialysis as with a kidney transplant.

FACT: Dialysis can replace some but not all functions of the kidney and is a treatment, not a cure, for end-stage renal disease (kidney failure). As a result, patients live longer with a kidney transplant than they do on long-term dialysis. Living kidney donation is considered the best treatment option for patients with end-stage renal disease because living donor kidneys last even longer than deceased-donor kidneys.

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