A kidney transplant is the replacement of a nonfunctioning kidney with a healthy donor kidney to restore proper waste management and blood filtering in the body. Candidates for kidney transplantation are patients who have advanced kidney disease or who are already on dialysis for end stage renal disease.
The replacement kidney can come from a living or deceased donor.
Benefits of a Kidney Transplant
Many patients feel that kidney transplant is a better option than ongoing dialysis because it offers a better quality of life. Studies also suggest that patients who receive a kidney transplant have a better chance of living a longer life.
Unfortunately, not all patients are medically eligible for a transplant. An extensive medical evaluation is required because of the risks from surgery and also because transplant patients will need to take immunsupressive medications indefinitely to avoid rejection of the donated kidney. The medical evaluation includes screening for heart disease, vascular disease, and cancer. Many other aspects of physical and mental health also are evaluated.
Kidney Transplant Procedure
A kidney transplant is performed in a hospital, with the patient under general anesthesia. In most cases, the original kidney is not removed unless it is severely infected, cancerous or enlarged.
The surgeon attaches the arteries and veins of the new kidney, and places it inside the body; he or she then attaches the ureter to the bladder.
Complications from a Kidney Transplant
The most serious possible complication from a kidney transplant is rejection, in which the body's immune system treats the new kidney as foreign and tries to destroy it. Immunosuppressive medications are given to prevent rejection. Other possible complications of a kidney transplant include the following:
- Blood clots
- Reaction to medications
Damage to other organs is also a possible complication from a kidney transplant.
Recovery from a Kidney Transplant
After a kidney transplant, the patient may stay in the hospital for a number of days. Medications to help prevent kidney rejection and infection are given. After leaving the hospital, the patient will need frequent outpatient checkups.
A kidney transplant can be a successful procedure as long as the patient participates in the necessary follow-up care and takes all prescribed medications.