Still, the study authors noted that it's important to continue to monitor and gather data on donors over the long term. The national registry includes health information only up to a year or two post-transplant. The researchers used the Social Security Death Master File to determine who died, but could not analyze quality of life or any other health issues that might have developed.
"In that long gap of time between one year and many decades after the surgery, we don't have a lot of information about what happens with living donors," Cooper said.
Previous research has also shown kidney donation to be overwhelmingly safe. A study published in 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked nearly 3,700 kidney donors from as far back as 1963 and found their life expectancy was the same as those who didn't donate.
While the donors in that study were primarily white, in the current study 13 percent of donors were black and 12 percent were Hispanic, a more accurate reflection of who donates, Segev noted.
The United Network for Organ Sharing has more on becoming a living donor.
SOURCES: Dorry Segev, M.D., Ph.D., transplant surgeon and director, clinical research in transplant surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Matthew Cooper, M.D., chairman, United Network for Organ Sharing living donor committee, and director, kidney transplant and clinical research, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore; March 10, 2010, Journal of the American Medical Association
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