Treatments & Procedures

Kidney Transplant

Kidney Transplant – an Overview

A kidney transplant is surgery that places a healthy kidney from a donor into someone whose kidneys are not working. A kidney transplant typically treats kidney failure.

The donor kidney can come from a living person (a living donor, such as a family member or spouse) or from a deceased donor.

Potential kidney donors are carefully screened to ensure they are a match and to prevent complications.

When is a Kidney Transplant Needed?

A kidney transplant is usually given to patients whose kidney function is severely impaired due to kidney disease. This includes end-stage kidney failure or chronic kidney disease. As their kidneys no longer function properly, they will be receiving dialysis to filter waste.

In general, patients are considered candidates for a kidney transplant if:

  • They are on dialysis with end-stage kidney failure
  • They have late-stage chronic kidney disease and will need dialysis soon.

Patients must also be prepared to undertake the post-operative care that is needed following a kidney transplant. There is no age limit for a kidney transplant, but donors are usually matched to recipients who are of a similar age. Some patients may receive more than one kidney transplant in their lifetime.

A patient might not be eligible for a kidney transplant if they have a serious health condition that may make the surgery high risk, if they have a persistent untreated infection and persistent malignancies.

What to Expect: Before a Kidney Transplant

Every patient’s transplant journey will be different, depending on many factors such as their individual requirements and what type of transplant they are receiving.

If you are receiving a kidney from a living donor, then the operation will be carefully planned in advance.

If you are receiving a kidney from a deceased donor, your transplant center will contact you as soon as a suitable kidney becomes available. You will be medically assessed to make sure you don’t have any new medical problems and checks will be carried out to ensure the transplant can go ahead.

What to Expect: During a Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is a complex surgery that involves placing a healthy kidney into the body so that it can perform the job of the failing kidney. The surgery usually takes several hours to complete.

The donor kidney will be placed on either the lower left or lower right side of the abdomen. It is connected to your blood vessels and your bladder to allow urine to pass from your body.

The diseased kidneys are usually le ft inside the body, unless there is a risk of infection, or the patient has high blood pressure caused by the damaged kidneys.

What to Expect: After a Kidney Transplant

You will be placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) initially, so your medical team can monitor your vital signs closely and check for any signs of rejection. Your stay in hospital will depend on your overall recovery but is usually only a few days. Overall recovery time is around 6 weeks.

The new kidney may work immediately, or the patient may require dialysis for a while until it starts working. This can take up to a few weeks.

Your transplant team will work with you to create a plan of care that you must follow closely while recovering at home. This includes taking medication to suppress your immune system so that your body doesn’t reject the new kidney. They will also advise you on how to stay safe, for example, by avoiding strenuous activities such as vigorous exercise and lifting heavy items. They will tell you to avoid driving for at least 6 weeks and will guide you on which foods you should and should not eat during your recovery.

Life After a Kidney Transplant

Thanks to advances in medicine and surgical expertise, kidney transplants are usually very successful with minimal complications.

A kidney transplant can provide the recipient with an improved quality of life. They will feel stronger, have more energy and return to a normal diet. You should be able to return to work within a few months, although overall recovery will depend on many individual aspects.

A kidney transplant also offers freedom from a dialysis schedule. Patients with anemia, a common issue in kidney failure, may see the condition resolved and those with hypertension may be able to reduce their medication.

A donated kidney, on average, will last for around 12-15 years. Kidneys from living donors tend to last longer than those from deceased donors.

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