Living donor complications decreasing.

What are Kidney and Pancreas Transplants?

Kidney transplants are one of the most common transplant procedures performed in the United States. When a patient's kidney begins to fail, as in the end stage of renal disease, many patient's opt to have a kidney transplant. 

During a kidney transplant, a functioning kidney is taken from a living or deceased donor and use it to replace a failing kidney in the recipient.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Kidney Transplants?

Urologists at Cleveland Clinic have pioneered kidney transplant procedures and revascularization, performing one of the first successful kidney transplants in 1963. Since that time, Cleveland Clinic urologists have performed more than 3,000 kidney transplants. 

In addition to the surgical expertise of urologists who specialize in all diseases of the kidney, our kidney transplant service also provides patients with the highest quality medical and nursing care, along with emotional support throughout the entire transplant process. Thanks to years of experience, research and improved medications that prevent rejection, kidney transplants are overwhelmingly successful, and postoperative complications are few.

Cleveland Clinic urologists were among the first in the world to offer laparoscopic donor nephrectomy. This surgery allows retrieval of an intact donor kidney through a small, bikini-area incision with a short hospital stay and quick recovery.

Why Would Someone Need a Kidney or Pancreas Transplant?

There are many different conditions that can completely shut down the proper functioning of a person's kidneys or pancreas. Kidney disease in its final stages often is treated with a kidney transplant. Other conditions if extreme enough can merit a kidney transplant, including:

  • Persistent and medically resistant hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney stones 
  • Inherited kidney disease

What Happens Before a Kidney or Pancreas Transplant?

Currently there is a critical shortage of organ donors and patients can be waitlisted for many years before finding an appropriate deceased donor. Factors such as blood and tissue type in both the patient and donor can increase wait times. While a patient is on the waitlist, they will be considered “on-call” at all times in case a viable kidney becomes available.

However, 40 percent of kidney donations come from living donors. Surprisingly, only 60 percent of patients who have living kidney donors are related to the donors. If you have siblings or other family willing family, they may be asked to be tested to see if they may be a viable match for kidney donation.

As with many surgeries, you'll be asked to abstain from NSAIDs or other blood thinning medications to reduce risk of bleeding during surgery. Your doctors will ask you to quit smoking as it will adversely affect healing after your surgery.

Midnight before your surgery, you should not eat or drink anything. If you are given medications to take the day of the surgery, you should take them only with a small sip of water.

What Happens During a Kidney or Pancreas Transplant?

Cleveland Clinic patients are given general anesthesia and will be asleep for the entire surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen and the donor kidney will be lowered into place. If your kidneys are causing complications such as uncontrollable high blood pressure, they will be removed. The donor kidney will be connected with your iliac artery and vein. Then the ureter will be connected to the bladder.

This procedure may sound intimidating. However, due to the high level of skill and experience of Cleveland Clinic's transplant surgeons, you can be sure that you'll be well taken care of.

What Happens After a Kidney or Pancreas Transplant?

After your kindey transplant, you'll spend several days to a week in the hospital as you are monitored for post-transplant complications and treated for post surgery pain. You'll be encouraged to walk soon after surgery as it encourages blood flow and the healing process.

After you've recovered sufficiently, you'll be sent home. However, you'll be expected to have frequent checkups during the recovery process. For several weeks, you'll be monitored closely to ensure that you stay in good health and don't suffer complications. These checkups help doctors determine if the surgery was successful long term. Additionally, you'll be prescribed immunosuppressants to keep your body from rejecting your new kidney. It is also likely that you will be prescribed antibiotics and anti-pain medication to take while you recover. However, you will be expected to take immunosuppressants for the rest of your life.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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