Kidney Transplant: For Some, a Chance for
a Longer, Healthier Life
A successful kidney transplant is closest to natural kidney function and is considered one of the most effective treatments for end stage renal disease (ESRD). New advances in technology, kidney donor matching and surgery have greatly increased transplant success rates and many people who have had kidney transplants are living longer and healthier lives. However, as with any major surgery, there are pros and cons to consider.
What is a kidney transplant?
What to consider before kidney transplant surgery
If you choose to have a kidney transplant, you should know that your best chance for a successful surgery depends on:
Your overall health
A good kidney donor match
Benefits versus possible risks
If you have a successful kidney transplant, you may live a longer life than you would have while on dialysis. You may also enjoy fewer complications and have a better quality of life—and experience more energy, better overall health and have fewer restrictions on your diet.
Potential risks and side effects
As with any surgery, there may be risks and complications. Key risks after kidney transplant surgery include:
- Temporary lack of kidney function—Your new kidney may not start working immediately and you may need dialysis until it resumes normal kidney function.
- Organ rejection—Your body may reject the donor organ and you may need medication to help your body accept the new kidney.
- Kidney failure—Your new kidney may fail after a number of years and you may need to have a second transplant or go back on dialysis.
- Cancer—Immunosuppressants may leave you more vulnerable to disease.
- Diabetes—Medications taken after a transplant can cause diabetes.
- Heart attack or stroke—Transplant puts you at a higher risk than a healthy person who hasn't had a transplant, especially if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
Potential side effects of a kidney transplant may include:
- Narrowing of the artery leading to the kidney—also called renal artery stenosis
- Blood clots
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
What to expect after kidney transplant surgery
Immediately after kidney transplant surgery:
- You can expect soreness in your abdomen.
- You will need to remain in the hospital for up to a week. Your doctor and medical team will closely monitor your status.
- You will need to take immunosuppressants—drugs that will help prevent your body from rejecting your new kidney.
- You will need to take other drugs to help reduce your risk for infection and other potential complications.
After you’re discharged, you will need to:
- Have regular checkups for a few weeks after surgery. If you live away from the transplant center, you will need to make arrangements to stay nearby.
- Be monitored regularly to check on your new kidney.
- Take immunosuppressants for the rest of your life.
The search for a living kidney donor: asking the big question
Kidney donation basics
- Share your story. You may want to privately discuss your situation with close friends and relatives or give a big shout-out via social media to spread the word. If you do go “social,” play it safe and be selective about your audience.
- Try not to take it too personally. Some people who want to donate their kidney may not be a good match. Others may say “no” for a variety of reasons, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.
- Be informed. When people ask you what it means to donate a kidney, know the facts and help them learn more.
- Stay positive. Speak with a social worker or another counselor to help ease your fears.
- Have a backup plan. Place your name on donor waiting lists in case you can’t find a living kidney donor on your own. With today’s advanced donor-matching technology, it is possible to find a good match with a living or nonliving donor.