03/31/2010 - News

Study Finds No Difference in Life Span for Kidney Donors

By: June Chen, MD


A major study of kidney donors published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides strong evidence that kidney donors live just as long as people with two kidneys. Although previous studies involving relative small numbers of kidney donors suggested that living donation is safe for donors, this is the largest study of its kind to date.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University looked at all of the 80,347 living kidney donations in the U.S. between 1994 and 2009. They found that, in the first 90 days after surgery, 3.1 of every 10,000 kidney donors died. Although this mortality rate was about eight times higher than non-donors experience, it is relatively low compared to similar surgical procedures. Over the long term, kidney donors did not have a higher mortality rate than people who still had two kidneys, based on death data obtained from the Social Security Administration. It is important to point out that this study did not measure the quality of life among kidney donors. However, previous studies have shown that kidney donors do not have an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer, or heart disease.

Of the approximately 13,600 kidney transplants that were performed in the U.S. last year, 6,387 were from living kidney donors. While a living kidney donation prolongs the recipient’s life span by about 17 years, a kidney from a deceased donor only extends the recipient’s life span by an average of 9-11 years. Based on the findings of this study, it seems that, in the long term, being a kidney donor does not increase the risk for death.



JAMA. 2010; 303(10): 959-966.


Created on: 03/31/2010
Reviewed on: 03/31/2010

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