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Donating a kidney to someone who urgently needs it is one of the most remarkable things you can do. Discover what’s involved and how to start your journey to becoming a donor.


Post-donation recovery


Once the kidney is removed from the donor, it is taken to the recipient, who will usually be in another hospital. Recovery from a kidney donation operation can take from 2-12 weeks, depending on the individual person’s progress.

After the operation is completed, the donor is taken to a recovery room where they will wake up from the anaesthetic. They will have several temporary tubes (or lines) inserted during the operation, such as a catheter to drain urine, a drainage tube from the wound, and a tube for painkillers, which are usually removed within a few days. Drugs for pain relief will be given immediately, and gradually reduced as someone recovers from the operation.

Most donors feel back to normal within six weeks, although some may need up to 12 weeks off work to recuperate. If an employer does not provide enough paid sick leave, a person can claim legitimate expenses for loss of earnings and travel expenses, usually up to a maximum of £5,000. This is at the discretion of primary care trusts or local healthcare authorities and boards, and should be discussed with the transplant coordinator at an early stage of the testing process. Any claim will need to be supported by proof of loss of income. Read our page on financial considerations to learn more about the support available.

Donors are invited back for annual check-ups soon after surgery. These may be at the transplant unit at first, but then will likely be with the GP. Other than these yearly checks, the same policies and procedures apply as they would to any other NHS patient – there is no preferential treatment for donating a kidney. However, in the extremely unlikely event that a donor needs a kidney transplant in the future, they will be offered additional priority on the waiting list within certain agreed criteria.


Most people leaving hospital after donating a kidney return to regular life as if nothing had happened. But everyone is different, with recovery from surgery taking anything from two to 12 weeks, and there are some points to keep in mind, especially soon after the operation.

Your time recovering in hospital after your operation is a good opportunity to make sure you have everything you need before heading home. Before you leave hospital, you may want to discuss a few things with their healthcare team, such as:

Pain management and medication

Reducing the risk of blood clots (Thrombo-embolism prophylaxis)

Wound management and dressings


Exercise and rehabilitation

In-patient medical certificate

Letters for your GP and your work

Someone to take you home and stay with you

Any follow up appointments needed



There are no rules about how soon a person can start driving again, but you should check with your healthcare professionals based on your operation experience. It may also be helpful to have someone with you when you drive for the first time after your donation.


There is a delicate balance between rest and exercise, because both are good for your recovery. It is healthy to go for a walk every day if you feel up to it, but you should be guided by your stamina and any symptoms (e.g. wound discomfort) when choosing the type and duration of exercise. You should avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for eight to 12 weeks. Ensure you also have plenty of rest.

Flying on a plane

When you fly, the risk of developing a blood clot (known as deep vein thrombosis) is increased. For this reason, you are advised to wait for at least two weeks before a short-haul flight, and longer for a long-haul flight. Before you fly, you must check that it is safe for you to do so. You need to be signed off by your surgeon and ensure that all your follow-up tests are satisfactory. Speak to your unit about extra precautions (such as surgical stockings and any medications) you might need to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Sex, contraception and pregnancy

You may resume your usual sexual activity when you feel comfortable to do so and are no longer experiencing any pain. It is not advisable for women to get pregnant for three months after the operation. You may have been advised to stop taking the contraceptive pill prior to donation, so speak to your GP or a healthcare professional about when is a suitable time to resume the pill based on your own circumstances and recovery.

Donating blood after donation

You can donate blood again as soon as you feel healthy and comfortable enough to do so.

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Whether you’ve already decided to donate a kidney, or you are interested in finding out more about the process and what it involves, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.