How/if to safely donate a kidney if you're overweight
August 12, 2004 10:35 PM   Subscribe

I am thinking about donating my kidney but I'm about 100lbs overweight and probably a doctor would say I'm closer to 150lbs overweight. Does anyone know how fit one has to be (should be...) to donate a kindey and 1) the kidney be healthy, and 2) for me to remain healthy? Other thoughts to consider for being overweight and interested in being a donor would be appreciated too.
posted by pwb503 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Why? What's your motivation here?

You're willing to commit to a life-threatening, probably somewhat-life-shortening operation to remove an organ that is probably overtaxed in your own body...but not to deal with your own chronic health problem, i.e. obesity?

Forgive me for not piling the laurels on you and for being snippy, but this seems like a pretty odd request. It doesn't sound like you happen to be some relative's only hope for a normal life, it sounds like you just want to do something good. That's commendable, but look, maybe start smaller. Have you considered blood donation or bone marrow donation or (if you're going to have a baby someday soon) umbilical cord blood donation?
posted by Asparagirl at 11:56 PM on August 12, 2004

I applaud you for your possible choice to donate said kidney, but you should try losing weight and checking with a doctor on any current or future health problems you are predisposed to beforehand. I think donating your kidney is very thoughtful and relevant, but the weight issue carries more to it than the weight itself, you see.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:20 AM on August 13, 2004

your weight raises your risk to type 2 diabetes significantly (by a factor of 4, i believe). if you get diabetes, you will need all the kidneys you can get. but i don't know how common diabetes is - if it's very rare then you might not mind the extra risk (i suspect, however, that it is not that rare).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2004

There are a lot of variables involved in answering your question. Are you in otherwise excellent health? Do you smoke? Is the potential recipient a particularly good match? Given the shortage of donor organs and the fact that living donor kidney transplants have a much higher rate of success, it seems like it would be worth looking into being a donor. The exact criteria for medical suitability vary from center to center, so that is yet another variable; in any event there is an extensive screening process for donors and even if your weight is acceptable,there may be another reason you are not a good donor. The only way to find out is to go through the process. Much more info can be found here. This PDF should be especially informative. While your intentions are obviously good, take your time before making this big decision.
posted by TedW at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2004

As a follow-up and more direct answer to your question, I found the following quote from the British Journal of Surgery in a 1999 article regarding practices in England and Ireland:

There were no exclusion criteria for obesity in ten centres. Others excluded donors whose body-weight exceeded their ideal body-weight by 15-20 per cent (eight centres), by 10-15 per cent (six centres) and by less than 10 per cent (three centres). One centre defined a body mass index of more than 40 or weight greater than 100 kg as exclusion criteria, while another excluded patients with a body mass index over 30.
posted by TedW at 8:35 AM on August 13, 2004

If it's for a relative, or a friend you truly love, then go for the tests to figure out compatibility. If it's for a stranger, get yourself into the kind of shape that'll minimize you ever needing it yourself first.
posted by amberglow at 8:38 AM on August 13, 2004

I hope that this will be my last post in this thread, but you never know...

In response to Asparagirl's comment above that kidney donation is probably life-shortening, a study published in the journal Transplantation in 1997 showed that 430 kidney donors in Sweden who donated kidneys between 1964 and 1994 actually had a lower than expected death rate. This was attributed to the fact that only very healthy people are accepted for organ donation. She also raised some questions regarding your motivation; I would like to point out that this is an ongoing subject of discussion in the transplant community and the subject of numerous journal articles. The central question is "is organ donation truly voluntary, given the pressure on potential donors to donate?" These articles should be easy to find if you have a medical library in your community (you ought to, if there is a transplant center there) and are interested in finding out more.
posted by TedW at 8:47 AM on August 13, 2004

Donating kidney or not, I would strongly urge you to look at your current health status and weight issues, and review those.

When I started working out, I didn't think it would be a big deal. It is. The difference of 150 pounds is absolutely huge. I went from 310-315 to a current weight of 185, and I feel so different it is amazing.

I would not encourage you to take any surgical operations at your current weight. Your body is probably overusing its organs right now as it is, and you will have a poor recovery at your current health condition.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. Don't claim to be. This is not medical advice. Don't sue me.
posted by benjh at 9:55 AM on August 13, 2004

Depending on the weight of the kidney, you could probably lose a pound or two by getting it removed.

posted by armoured-ant at 10:44 AM on August 13, 2004

There was an article in the New Yorker a week or 2 ago about a man who donated a kidney to a stranger. Good read; I recommend it. Even if you can't donate a kidney now, make sure you and everyone you know is a donor.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 AM on August 13, 2004

I donated my kidney at the Mayo in Minnesota when I was 75 pounds overweight. No one was concerned.

I had read that anasthesia was more dangerous the heavier you are. When I brought it up, the (foreign) surgeon said, "This is the midwest. If we couldn't operate on people who are overweight, we wouldn't be able to operate on anybody."

It turned out fine. The only time I even remember that I donated a kidney is when I see the scar.

If you want any more stats I'll give them to you. I researched the hell out of the whole procedure before I went ahead with it.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2004

The guy is researching how to donate an organ, and still people on metafilter make fat jokes. Bravo, guys.
posted by Hildago at 6:52 PM on August 13, 2004

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