Kidney Transplant Surgery: Returning to Normal Activities

Overview

What happens during the kidney transplant procedure?

Kidney transplantation involves placing a healthy kidney into the body, where it can perform all of the functions that a failing kidney cannot.

The new kidney is placed on the lower right or left side of your abdomen where it is surgically connected to nearby blood vessels. Placing the kidney in this position allows it to be easily connected to blood vessels and the 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.

Recovery and Outlook

When can I return to my regular activities?

You can resume your previous activities as soon as you feel better – and you might even feel good enough to add some new activities. A daily exercise program will continue to improve your health and help you maintain a positive attitude.

You will not injure yourself or your new kidney if you follow some of these general guidelines:

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects and strenuous physical work for at least six to eight weeks following surgery. It is important that you do not lift anything heavier than 20 pounds for two to three months, and nothing heavier than 40 pounds for four to six months from the date of your surgery.
  • Avoid driving for at least six weeks following surgery. Plan ahead so a friend or family member can help out during this time. When you are in a moving vehicle, always use your seat belt.
  • Exercise is encouraged. We recommend beginning with stretching exercises and walking. Other excellent exercises include jogging, hiking, bicycling, tennis, golf, swimming and aerobics. All of these can help you regain your strength and may be started gradually after your incision has healed.
  • As a general rule, rough contact sports should be avoided since they might cause injury to your transplanted kidney. If you have doubts about any activity, please ask the Transplant Team.

When can I go back to work?

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 the Transplant Team. When the time approaches, a “return to work” letter will be provided. This will let your employer know when you may begin working and what limitations, if any, you have.

How soon can I take a vacation?

You may travel after 12 weeks when you are feeling better, but always let the Transplant Team know when you plan to go, and provide a phone number where you can be reached. By remembering these traveling tips, your vacation will be worry free:

  • Always take all of your medicines with you and make sure you have enough medicines to last throughout your trip.
  • If you are traveling by plane, carry your medicines with you. Never check them with your luggage.
  • Make sure you have the phone number for the transplant center where you have been treated.
  • Check to see if there is a medical lab or transplant center nearby where you can have your blood work completed. This lab will need to report your results to the transplant office.

How will the transplant affect my sexuality?

Although a kidney transplant can cause many life changes, it does not affect a woman’s desire to become pregnant or hinder a man’s ability to father a child.

What addition information should women know about the recovery process?

Although fertility is not a problem, rejection or high blood pressure are both complications a woman might experience for at least one year after transplant surgery. Therefore, it is important to prevent a pregnancy during this time by using birth control.

Women who have a kidney transplant can have a healthy pregnancy later. Talk to the Transplant Team about the timing of your pregnancy after your transplant. Also, know the risks and make sure your obstetric provider is experienced in dealing with transplant patients.

A female transplant patient who becomes a new mother should not breastfeed her baby. The immunosuppressive medicines prescribed after transplantation can be passed through the mother’s breast milk and can cause harm to the baby.

Female transplant patients should be sure to have a yearly Pap test (a test for cancer of the cervix) and a mammogram. Immunosuppressive medicines could cause increased susceptibility to various types of cancer. Pap tests and mammograms are preventive measures that can help your healthcare providers detect any problems.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2019.

References

  • United Network for Organ Sharing, Transplant Living. . Accessed 5/29/2019. After the transplant (https://transplantliving.org/after-the-transplant/)
  • American Kidney Fund. . Accessed 5/29/2019. Life after transplant (http://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/kidney-failure/treatment-of-kidney-failure/kidney-transplant/life-after-transplant/)
  • National Kidney Foundation. . Accessed 5/29/2019. Care After Kidney Transplant (https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/immunosuppression)
  • Romano G, Lorenzon E, Montanaro D. . World Journal of Transplantation. 2012 Aug 24; 2(4): 46-50. Accessed 5/29/2019.Effects of exercise in renal transplant recipients (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782234/)

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