Context: More than 6000 healthy US individuals every year undergo nephrectomy for the purposes of live donation; however, safety remains in question because longitudinal outcome studies have occurred at single centers with limited generalizability.
Objectives: To study national trends in live kidney donor selection and outcome, to estimate short-term operative risk in various strata of live donors, and to compare long-term death rates with a matched cohort of nondonors who are as similar to the donor cohort as possible and as free as possible from contraindications to live donation.
Design, setting, and participants: Live donors were drawn from a mandated national registry of 80 347 live kidney donors in the United States between April 1, 1994, and March 31, 2009. Median (interquartile range) follow-up was 6.3 (3.2-9.8) years. A matched cohort was drawn from 9364 participants of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) after excluding those with contraindications to kidney donation.
Main outcome measures: Surgical mortality and long-term survival.
Results: There were 25 deaths within 90 days of live kidney donation during the study period. Surgical mortality from live kidney donation was 3.1 per 10,000 donors (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0-4.6) and did not change during the last 15 years despite differences in practice and selection. Surgical mortality was higher in men than in women (5.1 vs 1.7 per 10,000 donors; risk ratio [RR], 3.0; 95% CI, 1.3-6.9; P = .007), in black vs white and Hispanic individuals (7.6 vs 2.6 and 2.0 per 10,000 donors; RR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.3-7.1; P = .01), and in donors with hypertension vs without hypertension (36.7 vs 1.3 per 10,000 donors; RR, 27.4; 95% CI, 5.0-149.5; P < .001). However, long-term risk of death was no higher for live donors than for age- and comorbidity-matched NHANES III participants for all patients and also stratified by age, sex, and race.
Conclusion: Among a cohort of live kidney donors compared with a healthy matched cohort, the mortality rate was not significantly increased after a median of 6.3 years.