Kidney Failure (cont.)
What is kidney
Kidney transplantation is a procedure that places a healthy
kidney from another person into your body. This one new
kidney does all the work that your two failed kidneys
How does kidney transplantation work?
A surgeon places the new kidney inside your body between
your upper thigh and abdomen. The surgeon connects the
artery and vein of the new kidney to your artery and vein.
Your blood flows through the new kidney and makes urine,
just like your own kidneys did when they were healthy. The
new kidney may start working right away or may take up to a
few weeks to make urine. Your own kidneys are left where
they are, unless they are causing infection or high blood
What do you need to get ready for kidney transplantation?
You may receive a kidney from a member of your family. This
kind of donor is called a living-related donor. You may
receive a kidney from a person who has recently died. This
type of donor is called a cadaver donor. Sometimes a spouse
or very close friend may donate a kidney. This kind of
donor is called a living-unrelated donor.
It is very important for the donor's blood and tissues
to closely match yours. This match will help prevent your
body's immune system from fighting off, or rejecting, the
new kidney. A lab will do special tests on blood cells to
find out if your body will accept the new kidney.
How long does kidney transplantation take?
The time it takes to get a kidney varies. There are not
enough cadaver donors for every person who needs a
transplant. Because of this, you must be placed on a
waiting list to receive a cadaver donor kidney. However, if
a relative gives you a kidney, the transplant operation can
be done sooner.
The surgery takes from 3 to 6 hours. The usual hospital
stay may last from 10 to 14 days. After you leave the
hospital, you will go to the clinic for regular follow-up
If a relative or close friend gives you a kidney, he or
she will probably stay in the hospital for one week or less.
What are the possible complications of a kidney transplantation?
Transplantation is not a cure. There is always a chance
that your body will reject your new kidney, no matter how
good the match. The chance of your body accepting the new
kidney depends on your age, race, and medical condition.
Normally, 75 to 80 percent of transplants from cadaver
donors are working one year after surgery. However,
transplants from living relatives often work better than
transplants from cadaver donors. This fact is because they
are usually a closer match.
Your doctor will give you special drugs to help prevent
rejection. These are called immunosuppressants. You will
need to take these drugs every day for the rest of your
life. Sometimes these drugs cannot stop your body from
rejecting the new kidney. If this happens, you will go back
to some form of dialysis and possibly wait for another
Treatment with these drugs may cause side effects. The
most serious is that they weaken your immune system, making
it easier for you get infections. Some drugs also cause
changes in how you look. Your face may get fuller. You may
gain weight or develop acne or facial hair. Not all
patients have these problems, and makeup and diet can help.
Some of these drugs may cause problems such as
cataracts, extra stomach acid, and hip disease. In a
smaller number of patients, these drugs also may cause
liver or kidney damage when used for a long period of time.
What is a good diet for a kidney transplant?
Diet for transplant patients is less limiting than it
is for dialysis patients.
You may still have to cut back on some foods, though.
Your diet probably will
change as your medicines, blood values, weight, and blood
- You may need to count calories. Your medicine may give
you a bigger appetite and cause you to gain weight.
- You may have to limit eating salty foods.
- Your medications may cause salt to be held in your body, leading
to high blood pressure.
- You may need to eat less protein. Some medications
cause a higher level of wastes to build up in your
What are the pros and cons of kidney transplants?
Kidney transplantation pros
- It works like a normal kidney.
- It helps you feel healthier.
- You have fewer diet restrictions.
- There's no need for dialysis.
Kidney transplantation cons
- It requires major surgery.
- You may need to wait for a donor.
- One transplant may not last a lifetime.
- Your body may reject the new kidney.
- You will have to take drugs for the rest of your
What questions to ask about kidney transplantation?
- Is transplantation the best treatment for me? Why or why not?
- What are my chances of having a successful transplant?
- How do I find out if a family member or friend can
- What are the risks to a family member or friend if he
or she donates?
- If a family member or friend doesn't donate, how do I
get placed on a waiting list for a kidney?
long will I have to wait?
- What are the symptoms of rejection?
- Who will be on my health care team? How can they help
- Who can I talk to about sexuality, finances, or family
- How/where can I talk to other people who have faced
It's not always easy to decide which type of treatment is
best for you. Your decision depends on your medical
condition, lifestyle, and personal likes and dislikes.
Discuss the pros and cons of each with your health care
team. If you start one form of treatment and decide you'd
like to try another, talk it over with your doctor. The key
is to learn as much as you can about your choices. With
that knowledge, you and your doctor will choose a treatment
that suits you best.
Portions of the above material has been provided with the kind permission of the National Institutes of Health.Last Editorial Review: 2/20/2008