Incisions and Scars After Kidney Donation

Given that so many of the living donors in the Facebook support groups are recent or soon-to-be donors, it’s not surprising that there is a fair amount of discussion around the incision and tips on how to promote healing.

How visually noticeable is your scar today?

Everyone’s body heals differently and answers to questions about how a scar looks and feels depends on a few pretty obvious factors — time since the surgery, type of incision, and how the incision was closed.

The simplest and maybe most useful way to slice the data here was to group respondents based on how long ago they donated. Keep in mind this chart is showing healing for different people in each timeline, not a progression for the same group.

Comparison of scar visibility based on how long ago respondent donated their kidney

Generally, as you would expect, the scars become less noticeable over time. There’s a little uptick in respondents who said their scar is very noticeable in the 10+ years grouping. One explanation for this is that more donors in that timeframe reported having an open nephrectomy.

How much physical discomfort do you currently experience associated with your scar or surrounding scar tissue?

I remember thinking that while I had mentally prepared myself for what the scar from my kidney donation would look like, I really hadn’t given nearly enough thought to what it might feel like. I knew it’d be painful in the very beginning but didn’t give much thought to the possibility of nerve damage or adhesions.

Similar to the visibility of the scar, the simplest way for me to look at the data was to look at how different groupings of respondents answered based on how long it’s been since their surgery. It’s not a true read on time but gives me some reassurance that that too may improve over time.


Which of the following did you use to promote the healing of your incision? Check all that apply. 

I don’t really want to use the survey data to attempt to understand which methods work best to promote healing. Everyone will have a different experience but since I asked, here’s what the 271 survey respondents who answered the question said.

What Did You Use to Promote Incision Healing_ (1)

I was surprised that most people said they didn’t really use anything. Again, there are too many other variables to try to figure out if any of these helped speed things along.

This survey is biased. Please be sure to read more About the Survey and About the Sample Bias for additional context on how it was created and who participated.

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