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Cleveland Clinic

Kidney Donation Just Got Safer

Donating a kidney just got even safer. New requirements — in effect as of Feb. 1, 2013 — further protect people who are willing to be living kidney donors.

Concerns about what happens to donors after donating their kidneys prompted the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), which manages the transplant system, to establish new mandatory guidelines for all U.S. hospitals.

Stuart Flechner, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Kidney Transplant Program, chaired a work group representing the major American transplant societies that made recommendations to UNOS. He says while kidney donation surgery itself is safe — and kidneys are by far the most commonly transplanted organs — longer-term effects on donors haven’t been documented in many instances.

Dr. Flechner says the new policies will help to protect and reassure kidney donors right from the beginning of the donation process.

If you’re thinking of donating a kidney for whatever reason, you should know the basics of what hospitals are required to do. The three major requirements include:

1. Informed consent of living kidney donors

A hospital or transplantation center has to completely educate you of all aspects of the donation process, including the risks and benefits and your own post-donation kidney function and health, as well as possible effects on your finances, emotions and lifestyle

2. Medical  and psychological evaluation of living donors

To be sure you are physically and mentally ready to be a donor, you will undergo standardized medical and psychological evaluations performed by doctors or surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists or clinical social workers.

3. Follow-up with donors for a minimum of two years

Hospitals must submit complete follow-up data concerning your health at six months, one year and two years from the date of your donation.

Dr. Flechner says the new requirements aren’t designed to increase the number of much-needed kidney donors, but they may help potential donors feel safer about the surgery and impact of donation on their health.

 “We’ll find out as the guidelines are implemented,” says Dr. Flechner. “They should help in donor awareness and support their reasons for donating a kidney.”

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