Discharge Information

Our aim is for you to return to your full health potential and ultimately to be just as healthy as you were prior to donation. In order to achieve this, there are certain things you must refrain from doing for a few weeks. This guide will explain all the do's and don'ts of the recovery stage and answer those important questions you have.


After your operation, recovery usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks. You may experience several side effects of the operation such as:




Feeling bloated

Feeling a sense of anti-climax

Feeling low


All of the above are normal and should not be the cause of panic but should you experience any of these side effects and are worried, please do not hesitate to contact the hospital or your GP.

Diet and Exercise

After your operation it is imperative that you drink plenty of water. It is recommended by the ward nurses to drink up to 2 litres daily.

Similarly, you need to ensure that you are eating enough and consuming a balanced diet to prevent any major weight gain. There are guidelines to help you structure your diet at www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Goodfood/Pages/Goodfoodhome.aspx. Initially, it is advisable to eat little and often until your bowels have fully recovered then gradually build up your meals to three healthy and substantial meals a day.

Whilst recovering, it is also important that you exercise. You must, however, only partake in gentle exercise and gradually increase time spent exercising and effort. However, you must not do any heavy lifting, stretching, twisting or bending.

It is also wise to avoid any strenuous housework such as vacuuming and decorating.

Wound Care

The stitches used to close your wound do not need to be taken out. The suture material possesses properties that allow it to be absorbed by the body leaving a neater scar. More often than not, the nephrectomy (removing of the kidney) is done laparoscopically (key hole surgery) so there are a few small scars only a couple of inches long. Should these scars become red, swollen, hot or sore you must go and see your GP or contact the hospital as these are signs of infection and can hinder the recovery process significantly.

Medication and Side Effects

Before you leave the ward, you will have a discussion with the pharmacist and will be told what medication you are on and how and when to take it. You may feel slightly nauseous and dizzy from the pain killers but that is normal.

If you experience any other side effects and are concerned, contact your GP or local hospital. There should not be any withdrawal symptoms from the pain killers if you are taking the correct dosage. 

Follow-Up Clinics

You will be required to attend a follow-up clinic at The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh or your referring hospital after you have been discharged home. You will be seen by one of the transplant surgeons at approximately six weeks post-operatively and thereafter by the living donor co-ordinators in Edinburgh or doctors and transplant co-ordinators at your local centre to ensure that your road to recovery is as short and smooth as possible. At the six week clinic, your wound will be checked by the surgeon, you will have a blood sample taken, you will be asked to provide a urine sample, and your blood pressure will be checked. This is all standard procedure and nothing to worry about.

We offer lifelong follow up for you after donating a kidney, usually once a year. After the first year you have the option to go to your GP instead of coming to the hospital should it be more convenient, however with your permission we will contact your GP for your results for the national database collecting information about live kidney donors.


It is advised not to drive for about 4 weeks into your recovery, when you are no longer experiencing any pain and can safely make an emergency stop. Long car journeys may be uncomfortable so it is a good idea to keep a pillow in the car to place over the wound whilst being a passenger. (A family member should bring a pillow when they pick you up from the hospital to place over the wound for the journey home.)

It is also important to check you are insured to drive after an operation.


When you fly, the risk of you developing a deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot)  is increased significantly. It is for this reason that you are advised to wait 6 weeks before you fly. Before you fly, your need to make sure you have had blood tests to review your kidney function and have been reviewed by the surgeon. Without all of these you are declared unfit to fly.

Sex, Contraception and Pregnancy

You may resume your usual sexual activity when you feel comfortable to do so and are no longer experiencing any pain. It is not advisable for women to get pregnant from 6 to 12 months after the operation so you must use contraception. You may have been advised to stop taking the contraceptive pill prior to donation so speak to your GP about when is a suitable time to resume the pill.

How do I get a Fit Note?

A fit note is a statement of Fitness for Work. It allows your GP to provide your employer with more information on your recovery and ability to work. This will help you to return to work sooner and inform your employer that you need to build up your working hours gradually and not do anything too strenuous to begin with. You can get this letter from your GP.

Living Donor Pin

In recognition of your gift of living donation NHS Blood and Transplant  like to show their appreciation with a specially designed silver pin which will be sent to your home address after the donation. If you do not want to participate in this recognition scheme and receive a pin please inform the transplant co-ordinator. Alternatively you can contact NHSBT on 0117 975 7555.

Keep in touch

Should you have a medical problem in the years following your kidney donation we ask that you inform the transplant centre where you donated your kidney.


What next?

Whether you have donated a kidney to your nearest and dearest, or been part of a paired exchange, or been an altruistic donor who gave the gift a kidney to someone they will never meet, the transplant team appreciate your generosity and the life changing impact you have made. We are always looking for help with publicity, as personal stories make a powerful impression for raising awareness for organ donation and transplantation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would be willing to help.






Thank you on behalf of the Transplant Team

Acknowledgement to Sophie Hunt for Discharge Information

Last Reviewed: 03/03/2015