Longitudinal study of living kidney donor glomerular dynamics after nephrectomy

J Clin Invest. 2015 Mar 2;125(3):1311-8. doi: 10.1172/JCI78885. Epub 2015 Feb 17.


Background: Over 5,000 living kidney donor nephrectomies are performed annually in the US. While the physiological changes that occur early after nephrectomy are well documented, less is known about the long-term glomerular dynamics in living donors.

Methods: We enrolled 21 adult living kidney donors to undergo detailed long-term clinical, physiological, and radiological evaluation pre-, early post- (median, 0.8 years), and late post- (median, 6.3 years) donation. A morphometric analysis of glomeruli obtained during nephrectomy was performed in 19 subjects.

Results: Donors showed parallel increases in single-kidney renal plasma flow (RPF), renocortical volume, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) early after the procedure, and these changes were sustained through to the late post-donation period. We used mathematical modeling to estimate the glomerular ultrafiltration coefficient (Kf), which also increased early and then remained constant through the late post-donation study. Assuming that the filtration surface area (and hence, Kf) increased in proportion to renocortical volume after donation, we calculated that the 40% elevation in the single-kidney GFR observed after donation could be attributed exclusively to an increase in the Kf. The prevalence of hypertension in donors increased from 14% in the early post-donation period to 57% in the late post-donation period. No subjects exhibited elevated levels of albuminuria.

Conclusions: Adaptive hyperfiltration after donor nephrectomy is attributable to hyperperfusion and hypertrophy of the remaining glomeruli. Our findings point away from the development of glomerular hypertension following kidney donation.

Trial registration: Not applicable. FUNDING. NIH (R01DK064697 and K23DK087937); Astellas Pharma US; the John M. Sobrato Foundation; the Satellite Extramural Grant Foundation; and the American Society of Nephrology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney Glomerulus / physiology*
  • Living Donors
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrectomy