Objective: After anecdotal reports of severe hemorrhage from failure of surgical clips to sustain closure of renal artery stumps in live donor nephrectomies were received, this study was designed to identify specific surgical techniques that are associated with an increased risk of failure to control bleeding and might represent opportunities to improve patient safety.
Background: Preventing complications for living kidney donors must be paramount in addressing end-stage renal failure through living kidney donation. Major hemorrhage from technical failure, albeit an infrequent occurrence, can cause significant, yet preventable, morbidity or death. Open and laparoscopic approaches to living kidney donation use several vascular control methods, some of which may be more prone to failure and life-endangering hemorrhage than others.
Methods: To define hemorrhagic complications of living kidney donation, a survey was sent to all 893 surgeon-members of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were used to ascertain study participant characteristics, most frequently used vascular control techniques, and incidence of events (death, transfusion, reexploration or conversion to open nephrectomy, or contralateral [remaining kidney] renal failure). Outcomes of hemorrhage and comments by respondents were sought as were data from other sources.
Results: In 213 surveys returned (24%), 66 and 39 episodes of arterial and venous hemorrhage were reported, respectively. Among arterial control problems, 2 resulted in donor death and 2 resulted in renal failure; 19 episodes required transfusion. Open conversions in laparoscopic nephrectomy or late reoperations for hemorrhage were reported for 29 cases. Locking and standard clips applied to the renal artery were associated with the greatest risks.
Conclusions: Significant hemorrhagic complications occur with living kidney donation in both open and laparoscopic approaches. Loss of arterial control jeopardizes donor life and health, especially when it occurs in the postoperative period. Vascular transfixion provides the best vascular control of major vessels.