You must have an evaluation at a transplant center to determine if you are eligible for a transplant. If this has already occurred, it's much easier to get a kidney in an urgent or emergency situation. Even people receiving a living donor transplant must go through an evaluation and matching process.
Unless you have a living donor, you will be placed on the national waiting list for a donor kidney. A computer prioritizes the best candidates when a kidney becomes available. The program considers things such as matching tissue compatibility, where you live, medical urgency, and waiting time.
You must be able to reach the hospital soon after the donor kidney becomes available. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the lower stomach area (abdomen) and connects the donor kidney to the blood supply and bladder. The surgery usually takes two to four hours.
Living donor transplant surgery involves removing a kidney from the donor (nephrectomy) and connecting it to the blood supply and bladder in the recipient. Donor kidney removal is often a minimally invasive surgery. Donors typically need two to three weeks for a full recovery.
The recovery after kidney transplant can take several months. You will spend up to a week in the hospital so that you can be monitored for complications. It may take several days for your new kidney to function correctly, in which case you will need temporary dialysis until then. After recovery, you will need to consider making some changes to your everyday life:
- Carefully plan any attempt at pregnancy
- Follow a lifelong healthcare plan
- Keep follow-up appointments and get routine kidney function testing
- Manage lifelong anti-rejection medications and their side effects
- Prevent infections
- Treat other conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Watch for signs of rejection (ask your doctor for specific things to look for)
- Seek emotional support
It is important to remember that a kidney transplant is a treatment, not a cure, for kidney failure. Once you have a kidney transplant, you will need to take daily medication to make sure that your immune system does not reject the new kidney.
After a successful kidney transplant, you will no longer need dialysis. Your new kidney will filter your blood for you. You will take immunosuppressants to keep your body from rejecting the kidney. You may also take antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal medications to help keep your body healthy.
Survival rates for transplant vary based on several factors, but in general, the sooner rejection is detected, the easier it is to reverse it.
It’s normal to feel anxious about possible rejection, and your transplant team can help you find resources like support groups or rehabilitation services as you progress.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.