A kidney transplant is a surgery to replace a diseased or damaged kidney with a donor kidney. The donor may be a relative or friend. The donor can also be someone who has died and donated their organs.
Normal Anatomy of the Kidney
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A kidney transplant is done to replace a kidney that is no longer working and cannot be fixed. It may also be done if the kidney has been removed. A kidney transplant is only needed if both kidneys are not working. Common causes of kidney failure include:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
There is a shortage of donors. You may be on a transplant list for some time. You may need to carry a cell phone with you at all times. This will allow the transplant team to reach you if a kidney becomes available.
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. you will be asleep during the procedure.
An incision will be made in the lower abdomen. The donated kidney will be connected to your arteries, veins, and ureter, which is the tube that carries the urine to the bladder. In most cases, a diseased kidney will be left in place unless it is is causing problems or if room is needed for the transplant. The incision will be closed. The new kidney may start producing urine right away or within a short time.
You will be closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) and will have the following devices:
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-2 weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have complications.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will need to:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Urology Care Foundation
Kidney Cancer Canada
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Akbar SA, Jafri ZH, Amendola MA, et al. Complications of renal transplantation. RadioGraphics. 2005;25(5):1335-1356.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115336/Chronic-kidney-disease-CKD-in-adults. Updated August 23, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Greco F, Fornara P, Mirone V. Renal transplantation: technical aspects, diagnosis and management of early and late urological complications. Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):17-29.
Immunosuppression in kidney transplantation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T912632/Immunosuppression-in-kidney-transplantation. Updated July 24, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Kidney transplant. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneytransnewlease. Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Kidney (renal) transplantation.Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/kidney-transplant. Updated January 2011. Accessed August 29, 2017.
11/30/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115336/Chronic-kidney-disease-CKD-in-adults: Stock PG, Barin B, Murphy B, et al. Outcomes of kidney transplantation in HIV-infected recipients. N Engl J Med. 2010;363(21):2004-2014.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed August 2017 by Michael Woods, MD FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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