Kidney donors' risk of complications and the length of their hospital stays have decreased in recent years, a new study finds.
Live donors provide the organs in more than one-third of kidney transplants performed in the United States.
Previous research has suggested that live donors face minimal health risks, but there have been few comprehensive studies.
In order to determine trends regarding complications and other health issues experienced by live donors, the authors of the new study analysed data from more than 69 000 donors between 1998 and 2010, which represented 89% of US donors during that period.
The researchers found that complications among live donors fell from slightly more than 10% in 1998 to less than 8% in 2010 and hospital stays after donating a kidney decreased from almost four days to less than three days.
The rates of complications and length of hospital stays for donors were comparable with other relatively low-risk abdominal surgeries such as appendix removal.
Depression, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), however, increased over time among live kidney donors, according to the study, which was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
"We were able to characterise certain patient characteristics and outcomes that are not available from standard transplant registries," said Jesse Schold of the Cleveland Clinic.
"The data provide important information about the incidence and impact of pre-existing conditions among living donors that are not broadly known."
The findings confirm that the short-term risks for live kidney donors are relatively low, but because many donors have additional medical conditions, long-term monitoring of their health is important, the researchers concluded.
The study provides valuable information that can assist in the counseling and informed consent of living donors, Dr Krista Lentine, of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and Dr Dorry Segev, of Johns Hopkins University, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
The National Kidney Foundation has more about live donors.