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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.

Image of living kidney donor Celia smiling

What are the risks?


When considering living donation, it is important for donors to think about how they might feel if something unlikely or unusual were to happen to them, and discuss these concerns with their clinical team as part of the assessment process.

All operations carry some risk and donating a kidney is no different. However, the operation is a common procedure and the medical team caring for you are aware of the risks and can usually identify and treat these very quickly if they occur.

There is a very small risk of death for the donor: this is estimated at 1 in 3,000, which is a similar risk to that of having an appendix removed.

Most complications for donors are minor and include infections (chest, wound or urine) and, rarely, bleeding or blood clots. Rarer but more serious risks include damage to major blood vessels and organs near the kidneys such as the colon, lungs and spleen. As with any surgery, there can be less common and unexpected complications.

There is also the risk of damage to your emotional wellbeing or mental health if things do not work out as expected, for example if there are complications for you or the recipient and particularly if the transplant does not work for the patient and must be taken out.

For non-directed altruistic donors and donors in the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme, it is the recipient’s choice whether they want to get in touch with the donor or not. For this reason, you might never know the identity of the recipient, unless they choose to contact you. It can be difficult for some recipients to express how they feel about receiving such a wonderful gift and many find it hard to put pen to paper and say thank you. It is important to be prepared for this so that you are not disappointed if you do not hear anything from your recipient.

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