Donor's remaining kidney functions well: Study

Donor's remaining kidney functions well: Study

Kidney donors can end up healthier than before, say doctors

If you are worried about the adverse effects of donating a kidney, you may find this reassuring.

Most donors can resume normal activity and work within a few weeks, said Professor Tazeen Jafar from Duke-NUS Medical school.

Professor Jafar, who is from the school's programme in health services and systems research, told The New Paper last week: "After recovering from surgery, the donors will generally be well and do not experience effects other than those due to the operation itself."

In June this year, Duke-NUS and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) published a study that revealed a donor's remaining kidney continues to function well after surgery.

In the study, which involved about 180 donor participants, four in 10 regained 75 per cent of their pre-donation kidney function after five years.

For all of the donors in the study, kidney function would be at 67.3 per cent within half-a-year to five years.

The kidney gradually improves and within 10 years, it functions at 80.1 per cent

For donors with more than 10 years post-donation, the changes in renal function over time were comparable to that experienced by the general population.


One of the doctors who worked on the study, Dr Tan Ru Yu, associate consultant with the department of renal medicine in SGH , said the remaining kidney undergoes a "compensatory increase in filtration" to maintain the same overall kidney function as before the donation.

Said Dr Tan: "Donors can continue their current occupation, as well as usual lifestyle and they would need to do an annual health check-up and avoid extreme sports that may increase the risk of injury to the remaining kidney.

"There is no need to take medication and it is also possible to get pregnant."

Doctors whom TNP spoke to pointed out how donors could even end up healthier, due to regular checks that they have to attend annually.

"They will receive healthy lifestyle advice which if adhered to, is more likely to prevent chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes," said Prof Jafar.

Potential donors are required to be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team which has experience and training in evaluating donors.

Also read: He loses 30kg so he can donate kidney to sister


Dr Terence Kee, director of the renal transplant programme at SGH, said: "The evaluation process is often complex and long but it is done to ensure that the risk to the donor in terms of surgery and thereafter is as low as possible."

He also pointed out how this team ensures that any "psychosocial risks of donation are low".

"Donors must not be found to have been coerced to donate and should be mentally prepared for all possible outcomes after donation for both the donor and the intended recipient," he said.

Patients with end-stage kidney failure require either dialysis or transplant to survive and according to Dr Tan, successful living kidney donor transplantation is often the best option for patients with kidney failure.

As of May this year, about five people here lose the use of their kidneys each day and Singapore has the fifth highest kidney failure rate in the world.

There were only 40 living donor kidney transplants last year and 334 people were on the waiting list for kidney transplants.

Still, the resistance to donating remains high.

A 2012 study, Dr Tan pointed out, found that 51.6 per cent of people were unwilling to donate a kidney while alive, citing reasons like the fear of surgical risks and poorer health after donation.

"We hope more Singaporeans will come forward to offer the gift of hope and life to their loved ones suffering from kidney failure," he said.

Living with one kidney for 34 years

When his elder brother needed a kidney 34 years ago, Mr Ng Peng Boon did not hesitate to donate.

The 56-year-old systems integrator told The New Paper: "I knew he needed it, so I just did my part, doing whatever I could to help him. There was no doubt about it, and it came naturally."

While he was a bit "nervous" over the possible adverse effects of donating his kidney, Mr Ng said not once did he waver in his decision during the three months of check-ups and evaluations.

"It made me understand more of what I was going to go through. Yes, there would be a small risk in the operation, but I knew I did not have much to worry about," he said.

"After all, I wanted to help my brother in any way I could."

Both of them are now in the pink of health, said Mr Ng.

Mr Ng still goes for annual check-ups to monitor his health, but he has not had any problems after donating his kidney.

When asked if they ever talk about the donation, Mr Ng laughed and said they look back on it fondly.

"He is better and that is all that matters. I am glad I managed to give him these 30 or so years of his life. I don't regret it one bit."

This article was first published on December 13, 2016.
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