What is a Kidney Transplant?
A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure that places a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys are no longer functioning properly.
A kidney can come from:
- A living blood relative, such as a parent or sibling
- A living non-related person, such as a spouse or friend
- A non-living donor (cadaver)
A kidney transplant is an option to treat chronic kidney disease but will not cure it.
Who is Eligible for a Kidney Transplant?
- Transplantation is the best current renal therapy option, but may not be the right option for everyone, as some medical conditions may prevent it. A referral by a physician to a transplant center for consultation and testing will help to determine if this is an option.
- If transplantation is an option, the patient will be placed on a wait list until a kidney match is available. Blood tests are typically done monthly to help determine a match for kidneys that become available. The goal is for a kidney that is as close a match as possible, so there is less chance of it not working, or rejection.
- A friend or family member that is interested in donating one of their kidneys may be an option. They will also be tested to be sure they are healthy and are a good match.
- The wait time for a kidney transplant can vary from a short period to several years.
What to Expect
- A transplant is a major surgical procedure, requiring anesthesia. The surgery takes about 3 hours. The transplanted kidney is placed in the lower abdomen, while the person’s own kidneys are usually left in place.
- The transplanted kidney may start working right away, or it may take several days. Dialysis may be needed during this time.
- Anti-rejection medications are given to help prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney. Though successful most of the time, the medication cannot always stop a rejection from happening. There may be some side effects from these medications, which will be reviewed with the patient by the transplant team.
- Close medical monitoring will be done while in the hospital and after going home. It is important to follow all the instructions given by the healthcare team, especially taking the medications. Regular blood tests will be done, and medications will be adjusted or changed as needed.
Things to Consider About a Transplant
- A successful kidney transplant may return the patient to a state of good health without the need for dialysis, including a return to a more normal lifestyle, diet, and/or work schedule.
- A kidney transplant is a treatment, not a cure. A transplant can last for many years but may not last a lifetime. If the transplant fails, dialysis will likely be necessary.
- Adherence to a strict medication regimen is necessary for the life of the transplanted kidney and will be closely monitored to ensure the medications are at the right dose.
- A transplant may not be readily available and require dialysis until a transplant is available.