Living kidney donation is safe and established, but can lead to long-term complications such as chronic fatigue. Since the adrenal vein is usually transected during left-sided donor nephrectomy—which is not necessary on the right—we hypothesized that venous congestion might lead to an impairment of adrenal function, offering a possible explanation. In this prospective open label, monocentric cohort study, adrenal function was compared in left- and right-sided living kidney donors. The primary endpoint was plasma cortisol response to low-dose adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation. Secondary endpoints included plasma renin and ACTH concentration as well as adrenal volume in response to donor nephrectomy. A total of 30 healthy donors—20 left- and 10 right-sided donations—were included. On postoperative day 1, response to low-dose ACTH stimulation was intact, but significantly lower after left-sided donor nephrectomy. After 28 days, adrenal responsiveness to ACTH stimulation did not differ any longer. Magnetic resonance imaging volumetry showed no significant adrenal volume change over 4 weeks, neither after left- nor after right-sided nephrectomy. In conclusion, left-sided living kidney donation entails a transiently reduced adrenocortical responsiveness, which returns to baseline after 28 days.
Left-sided kidney donation, which requires transection of the left adrenal vein, leads to transiently reduced adrenocortical responsiveness compared to right-sided donation.