• About kidney transplantation

    Kidney transplantation is a surgical procedure that places a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor into a patient who has kidney failure. The new kidney takes over the work of the failing kidneys. Most kidney transplant recipients have end-stage kidney disease. The leading cause of kidney disease is diabetes. However, there are other causes of kidney disease including high blood pressure, infections such as hepatitis and TB; heart, lung or liver disease; recent history of cancer; or hazardous lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol, or drug abuse.

    How is it performed?

    After general anesthesia is given, a surgeon places the new kidney inside the lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to the patient’s artery and vein. The patient’s blood flows through the new kidney. This enables the kidneys to return to normal functions such as filtering waste and excess fluid out of the body. Unless they are causing infection or high blood pressure, the recipient’s old kidneys are left in place. The procedure generally takes about three hours.

    Why is it performed?

    When kidneys fail, a person’s body cannot filter out harmful waste products and fluids. The waste and fluids build up in the body. This can lead to end-stage kidney disease and make kidney transplantation the only option for restoring health.

    Who is a candidate?

    The need for a quick referral is very important. Studies show the longer a patient is on dialysis waiting for transplant, the less time the transplanted kidney will last. Only about half of dialysis patients qualify for a transplant due to declining health status resulting from the time spent on dialysis.

    Screening patients for a kidney transplant is very thorough to increase the odds of survival for both the recipient and the transplanted kidney.

    Common patient requirements include:

    • Physical exam and medical history
    • Kidney function tests
    • Cardiovascular exam
    • Routine lab tests, including blood count and liver function tests
    • Blood and tissue typing
    • Panel reactive antibodies (PRA) to determine the antibodies in the blood
    • Blood tests for active viral infections

    Individuals may be excluded because of cardiovascular disease, smoking, obesity, incurable infectious diseases, cancer, mental illness, or ongoing substance abuse.

    What are the risks?

    The risks of having a kidney transplant include:

    • Blood clots
    • Bleeding
    • Leaking from or blockage of the tube (ureter) that links the kidney to the bladder
    • Infection
    • Failure of the donated kidney
    • Rejection of the donated kidney

    After having a kidney transplant, the patient will have to take antirejection medication to suppress the immune system and help prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney. The patient will have to take this medication for the rest of their life. Because these medications weaken the immune system, the patient will have an increased risk for other types of serious infection.

    What are the benefits?

    Successful kidney transplantations treat kidney failure and can restore the health of a patient. A kidney recipient should be able to return to a more normal lifestyle and have more control over daily living. It can increase their strength, stamina, and energy. The transplantation offers an opportunity for a longer, more satisfying life and can restore the quality of life for patients who have been sick for an extended period of time.