Keyhole (laparoscopic) versus traditional (open) surgery for people donating a kidney

Keyhole surgery, which involves a surgeon making several smaller cuts to obtain a healthy kidney for transplanting, was compared with the traditional technique of making a single larger cut (open surgery). Six studies randomising 596 healthy kidney donors to either keyhole or open surgery, found keyhole surgery to be associated with less pain for the donor but had similar numbers of complications that can require further treatment or surgery or both. Donor kidneys that were obtained using the keyhole surgical technique were deprived of nutrients for longer periods of time than kidneys obtained for transplant using open surgery, but this does not appear to have any short-term consequences.

Authors' conclusions: 

LDN is associated with less pain compared with open surgery; however, there are equivalent numbers of complications and occurrences of perioperative events that require further intervention. Kidneys obtained using LDN procedures were exposed to longer warm ischaemia periods than ODN-acquired grafts, although this has not been reported as being associated with short-term consequences.

Read the full abstract...

Waiting lists for kidney transplantation continue to grow and live organ donation has become more important as the number of brain stem dead cadaveric organ donors continues to fall. The major disincentive to potential kidney donors is the pain and morbidity associated with open surgery.


To identify the benefits and harms of using laparoscopic compared to open nephrectomy techniques to recover kidneys from live organ donors.

Search strategy: 

We searched the online databases CENTRAL (in The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 2), MEDLINE (January 1966 to January 2010) and EMBASE (January 1980 to January 2010) and handsearched textbooks and reference lists.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials comparing laparoscopic donor nephrectomy (LDN) with open donor nephrectomy (ODN).

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently screened titles and abstracts for eligibility, assessed study quality, and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information where necessary.

Main results: 

Six studies were identified that randomised 596 live kidney donors to either LDN or ODN arms. All studies were assessed as having low or unclear risk of bias for selection bias, allocation bias, incomplete outcome data and selective reporting bias. Four of six studies had high risk of bias for blinding. Various different combinations of techniques were used in each study, resulting in heterogeneity in the results. The conversion rate from LDN to ODN ranged from 1% to 1.8%. LDN was generally found to be associated with reduced analgesia use, shorter hospital stay, and faster return to normal physical functioning. The extracted kidney was exposed to longer warm ischaemia periods (2 to 17 minutes) with no associated short-term consequences. ODN was associated with shorter duration of procedure. For those outcomes that could be meta-analysed there were no significant differences between LDN or ODN for perioperative complications (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.47 to 4.59), reoperations (RR 0.57, 95% CI 0.09 to 3.64), early graft loss (RR 0.31, 95% CI 0.06 to 1.48), delayed graft function (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.52 to 2.30), acute rejection (RR 1.41, 95 % CI 0.87 to 2.27), ureteric complications (RR 1.51, 95% CI 0.69 to 3.31), kidney function at one year (SMD 0.15, 95% CI -0.11 to 0.41) or graft loss at one year (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.15 to 3.85).