A kidney transplant is a procedure where a new donor kidney is placed in your body. This is typically done to treat kidney failure. Once attached, your new kidney will start to do the job of the failing organ. The transplanted kidney is usually placed on either the lower right or left side of your abdomen.
A kidney transplant is a surgery that involves taking a healthy kidney from a donor and placing it into a person whose kidneys are no longer working properly.
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Kidneys for transplantation might come from living donors or deceased organ donors. Immediate family members, spouses and friends may qualify for kidney donation. Deceased donor kidneys come from those who have elected to donate their organs upon death.
Potential kidney donors are carefully screened to make sure they’re a match. This helps prevent complications.
Kidney transplants are done to help people with chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal (kidney) failure. When your kidneys can no longer filter waste properly, you’ll need either dialysis (which uses a machine to remove waste from your bloodstream) or a kidney transplant.
Each hospital has its own criteria for accepting people as kidney transplant recipients. But in general, candidates should have:
While most kidney transplant recipients are between the ages of 45 and 65, there really is no upper age limit. However, to ensure the best results, your healthcare provider will likely look for a donor who is close to your own age.
In some cases, people can have two and even three or four kidney transplants in their lifetime. Your healthcare provider can tell you if this is an option for you.
Kidney transplants are approved on a case-by-case basis. However, there are some general factors that could make a person ineligible for a kidney transplant, such as:
No matter what your situation, your healthcare provider can determine whether a kidney transplant is a safe treatment option.
Kidney transplantation involves placing a healthy kidney into your body, where it can perform all of the functions that a failing kidney cannot.
Your new kidney is placed on the lower right or left side of your abdomen where it’s surgically connected to nearby blood vessels. Placing the kidney in this position allows it to be easily connected to blood vessels and your bladder. The vein and artery of your new kidney are attached to your vein and artery. The new kidney's ureter is attached to your bladder to allow urine to pass out of your body.
In most cases, your surgeon will leave your diseased kidneys inside your body. However, there are three conditions that might require the removal of your old kidneys:
On average, kidney transplant surgery takes two to four hours to complete.
Most people spend about three days in the hospital after a kidney transplant. This way, your medical team can keep a close eye on you and make sure you’re recovering well.
Your new transplanted kidney may start working immediately. Or, you may need dialysis temporarily until it starts working. This might take several days or weeks.
You’ll also need to start taking medications to keep your immune system from rejecting your new transplanted kidney.
Your scar will be about 2 to 5 inches long, on the right or left side of your lower abdomen.
How long a kidney transplant lasts can vary from person to person. In general, kidneys donated by a living person last longer than kidneys donated by a deceased person. On average, however, transplanted kidneys last approximately 10 years.
A successful kidney transplant gives you increased strength, stamina and energy. After transplantation, you should be able to return to a more normal lifestyle and have more control over your daily living. You can have unrestricted diet and fluid intake.
If you were dependent on dialysis before the transplant, you'll have more freedom because you won't be bound to your dialysis schedules.
Anemia, a common problem with kidney failure, might be corrected after transplantation. If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), you could be on fewer blood pressure medications after transplantation.
The risks of kidney transplantation are the same as those of any surgery. There is the risk of bleeding, infection or breathing problems. You also might experience some side effects from the medications, and you could be more prone to infections since the medicine you will take after transplantation lowers your body's ability to fight infection.
Since your body recognizes the new kidney as a foreign object, it will normally try to get rid of it or "reject" it. However, you’ll be given medicine to prevent rejection.
Because of years of experience, research, and improved medicines that prevent rejection, kidney transplants are very successful with few complications after transplantation.
While both options have pros and cons, kidney transplant is often the preferred treatment for chronic kidney disease. This is because lifelong dialysis can be taxing. Kidney transplant offers a better quality of life for most people, and studies show that those who have a successful kidney transplant live longer on average compared to those who receive dialysis.
On average, kidney transplant recovery time is about six weeks. This timeline is different for everyone, though. It depends on your overall health and other factors.
It’s important to closely follow any instructions given by your healthcare provider. Here are some general guidelines:
When it comes to the food and drinks you consume, there are a few tips you should follow:
People can live for many years after receiving a transplanted kidney. On average, a kidney from a living donor lasts about 12 to 20 years, while a kidney from a deceased donor lasts about eight to 12 years. Some people receive more than one kidney transplant in their lifetime.
Yes. Many people lead healthy, fulfilling lives after their kidney transplant. Currently, the one-year kidney transplant survival rate is 95%. The average three- to five-year survival rate is 90%. This means that 9 in 10 people who receive a transplanted kidney will still be alive five years after their surgery.
Survival rates are estimates. They can’t tell you how you’ll respond to treatment or how long you’ll live. To learn more about kidney transplant survival rates, talk to your healthcare provider.
Many kidney transplant patients are able to return to work within a few months following a successful surgery. However, various aspects of the recovery process can affect the timing of your return.
You will need to discuss returning to your job with your surgeon. When the time approaches, your provider will give you a “return to work” letter. This will let your employer know when you may begin working and what limitations you have if any.
Following your kidney transplant, you’ll see your medical team for regular follow-ups. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal failure, a kidney transplant can eliminate the need for dialysis and give you a new lease on life. Before deciding on treatment, be sure to discuss all of your options with your healthcare provider. You may also want to explore additional resources provided by organizations like the American Kidney Fund, National Kidney Foundation and Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO). Staying knowledgeable can empower you and help you make well-informed decisions about your health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/14/2022.
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