Background: A very important issue in living kidney donor transplantation is whether the donation is safe for the donor. The aim of this study was to examine survival and causes of death in kidney donors and to assess the renal function in those who had donated a kidney more than 20 years ago.
Methods: A total of 459 living donor nephrectomies were performed in Stockholm from 1964 until the end of 1994. By using national registers, all 430 donors living in Sweden were traced. Donor survival was analysed using the Kaplan-Meier method. Expected survival was computed using the Hakulinens method and was based on national mortality rates.
Results: Forty-one subjects had died between 15 months and 31 years after the donation. The mortality pattern was similar to that in the general population, the majority dying of cardiovascular diseases and malignancies. After 20 years of follow-up, 85% of the donors were alive, whereas the expected survival rate was 66%. Survival was thus 29% better in the donor group. One third of the donors (aged 46-91 years) who had donated >20 years ago had hypertension. There was a deterioration in the renal function with increasing age, similar to what is seen among normal healthy subjects. The average glomerular filtration rate in donors aged 75 years and over was 48 ml/min/1.73 m2.
Conclusions: To donate a kidney does not seem to constitute any long-term risk. The better survival among donors is probably due to the fact that only healthy persons are accepted for living kidney donation.