Kidney Transplant


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During a kidney transplant, a damaged or diseased kidney is replaced with a healthy one.

It’s estimated that about 20 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. This is one of the reasons why an individual may need a kidney transplant. Sometimes referred to as a renal transplant, the procedure can involve an organ from a living or deceased donor.

  • More than 100,000 people are on a waiting list to receive a new kidney.
  • Approximately 16,000 transplants are performed each year in the United States.

Reasons for a Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant may eventually become necessary when a patient shows signs of chronic kidney disease, referring to a gradual loss of kidney function. There may not be any noticeable signs of a problem with kidneys until function is severely impaired. It’s usually when end-stage kidney failure occurs that a transplant becomes an option. When this point is reached, the only two remaining options are dialysis or a transplant. Contributing factors to end-stage renal failure include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Blockages in arteries
  • Congenital (present at birth) problems with kidneys



Preparations for Surgery

Initially, tests will be done to determine tissue type and blood type. Close tissue matching reduces the risk of rejection. Overall health will also be evaluated to check for issues that may prevent a patient from being considered for a transplant, such as liver or heart disease, active infections, widespread cancer, or immune system disorders.

How a Transplant Is Performed

During transplant surgery, the donor kidney is removed through a series of small incisions utilizing laparoscopic equipment. Once the donor kidney is removed it is inserted into lower abdomen of the recipient. The donor kidney is connected to the recipient’s arteries and veins. The donor kidney’s ureter, which is the tube that drains the kidney, is then connected to the recipient’s bladder. Functioning of the transplanted kidney usually starts as soon as connections are made. Unless the patient’s original kidney is severely infected or enlarged, it usually remains in place along with the donor kidney. It typically takes about three hours to complete a kidney transplant.

Recovery After a Transplant

Patients will need to take immunosuppression medications for the remainder of their lives following a kidney transplant. It’s equally important to look for signs of an infection or possible rejection, which may include a sudden decrease in urination, pain, nausea and vomiting, or fever. Some patients may need to continue to receive dialysis and take diuretics following surgery to remove excess salt and water from the body until the donor kidney starts producing urine on its own.

Early signs of kidney problems usually require attention of a urinary specialist. In many instances, medications or changes in diet can help with minor issues affecting kidney functioning. For a patient who is a good candidate for a transplant, it’s important to adhere to follow-up instructions to increase the odds of enjoying successful results. Activity should remain at the light-to-moderate level for about six to eight weeks. Exposure to direct sunlight and germs will also need to be minimized.

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