Good health is a must

To donate a kidney, you need to be in good health. You will need to undergo a number of medical examinations to check whether you are healthy enough to give up one of your kidneys without your own health suffering later on.

For many of those wishing to donate a kidney, the examinations can be very challenging and very stressful. Although potential donors may be psychologically prepared to make such a life-giving donation, their health sometimes prevents them from doing so. The most common obstacles are smoking and excess weight: very often, people who smoke or are overweight are unable to donate a kidney.

Smoking can lead to a wide range of diseases, particularly of the lungs. The same applies to excess weight, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. In fact, these two conditions are the two main causes of end-stage renal failure, accounting for 50% of cases.

To donate a kidney, you need first and foremost to be physically fit and healthy overall to protect the remaining kidney as much as possible.

For help quitting smoking, visit Keep in mind that as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can go a long way in helping you quit smoking for good.

If you’d like to lose a few kilos and adopt a healthier lifestyle, Quebec-based non-profit organization ÉquiLibre (site in French only) can help you step by step.

The site also includes a directory of certified professionals (in French only) working in both the public health system and private practice who focus on issues surrounding weight and body image. They can guide you in your journey to improved health and well-being, while helping you gain a better understanding of why you are overweight and develop a healthier relationship to food, all as part of a customized behaviour-modification framework.

For take it a step further, visit the Resources section.

Minimal or negligible risks

All surgery carries some degree of risk, even if it is minimal. Kidney retrieval carries a low risk of complications, owing to the fact that the operation is performed in a non-urgent situation and the donor is in excellent health.

However, all forms of surgery carry some risks, including a heart attack, a stroke and bleeding. The complications that can occur within a few days of the surgery include deep thrombophlebitis (the formation of a blood clot in a leg vein), a pulmonary embolism (migration of the blood clot to the lungs) and infection.

The risks of a major complication occurring during a kidney retrieval operation have been determined to be the same as for gall bladder removal surgery, namely a 0.03%, or 3 in 10,000, chance of death, which is considered extremely low.

Every precaution is taken before, during and after surgery to minimize the risks and identify and treat potential complications as quickly as possible.