Background: The aim of the study was a comprehensive psychological evaluation of living kidney donors. Existing studies indicate a high donor satisfaction with the decision to donate and good donor quality of life in short-term, as well as in long-term follow-up periods. In many studies, questionnaires with only a few items have been used to assess psychological health or well-being; however, most studies exclusively measured quality of life. Therefore, our retrospective single center study applied a broad assessment of psychological variables. We evaluated whether standardized, differentiated and specific psychological research instruments confirmed the positive, long-term condition of kidney donors as reported in the scientific literature, albeit based on a limited set of variables.
Methods: From 1973 to 2001, 152 nephrectomies were performed in Frankfurt. In the context of a detailed medical follow-up examination, a psychological study was implemented using a semi-structured interview and a set of four standardized, well-established questionnaires. Overall, data from 145 donors was included in the medical follow-up and 112 donors participated in the psychological investigation.
Results: The mean age of donors was 55.9 (+/- 10.7) yrs at follow-up, and the time-since-donation was 11.2 (+/- 7.5) yrs. Donors scored better on a wide range of the psychological scales such as psychological symptoms, health behavior and health consciousness that was to be expected in comparison with data from representative German population samples. Nearly all donors (97%) would choose to donate again, and 91% remain entirely satisfied with their decision.
Conclusion: The study demonstrates that existing results, reporting positive long-term psychological donor well-being, could be confirmed by a set of comprehensive, standardized and multi-methodological psychological instruments.