Background: Most studies evaluating the impact of kidney donation on donors' quality of life (QOL) have limitations such as small cohort size, unmatched references, use of nonstandardized and nonvalidated questionnaires, or low response rates.
Methods: We performed a study on donors' QOL that was designed to avoid these limitations. All available living renal donors in our department in the last 18 years were included in the study. QOL was assessed with two validated, standardized questionnaires (Short Form-36, Giessen Subjective Complaints List [Giessener Beschwerdebogen]-24) and compared with gender- and age-matched references. In addition, specific questions relating to kidney donation were asked.
Results: The response rate (89.8%) is one of the highest reported for studies on QOL of living kidney donors. Most donors had an equal or better QOL than the healthy population. Donors' willingness to donate again (93.4%) or recommend living-donor kidney transplantation (92.4%) was high, irrespective of complications. A small number of donors experienced financial drawbacks or occupational disadvantages. Donors aged 31 to 40 years were found to be at risk of QOL deterioration after organ donation. Donor and recipient complications had a significant impact on donors' QOL. One third of the donors found that the psychologic care preceding and after kidney donation was insufficient.
Conclusions: Our findings support the practice of living-donor kidney transplantation as a good means to meet the persisting organ shortage. Further effort must be put into minimizing donor and recipient complications. The specific demands of younger donors should be further elucidated. In addition to medical follow-up, living kidney donors should also be offered lifelong psychologic counseling.