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 the organs.
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. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
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:
You will have pain during the recovery process. Your doctor will give you pain medication.
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:
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Urology Care Foundation
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Kidney Cancer Canada
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Akbar SA, Jafri ZH, et al. Complications of renal transplantation. RadioGraphics. 2005; 25:1335-1356.
Chronic kidney disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 11, 2014. Accessed August 13, 2014.
Halloran PF. Immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplantation. N Engl J Med. 2004; 351: 2715-2729.
Kidney transplant. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneytransnewlease.cfm. Accessed August 13, 2014.
Kidney (renal) transplantation. American Urological Association Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=23&display=1. Updated January 2011. Accessed August 13, 2014.
11/30/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Stock PG, Barin 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.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
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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