What is kidney transplantation?

Kidney transplantation is the implanting of a healthy kidney from another person, called a donor, into a patient with end stage renal disease, who is called the recipient. The suitability of a patient for a kidney transplant depends on certain medical conditions, and laboratory tests are done to ensure that the donor and recipient are good matches.

The time it takes to get a transplant can vary widely. Unfortunately, not enough kidneys are available for transplantation, so some patients may be on a waiting list for a long time. A kidney may be donated from:

• a living blood relative, such as a parent or a sibling
• a living non-relative, such as a spouse or very close friend
• a deceased donor, who has declared his or her intention to become a donor prior to death

The new kidney is placed in the lower abdomen, and the diseased kidneys are normally not removed. The new kidney may start working immediately, or it may take up to a few weeks to produce urine. In rare circumstances the new kidney may not work at all. To avoid a rejection, the patient has to take daily anti-rejection medication after the surgery. Sometimes this medication cannot prevent a kidney rejection, or it may cause some unwanted side effects such as a weakened immune system, weight gain or high blood pressure.

Things to consider about kidney transplantation

A successful transplant can help a patient to return to a state of good health without dialysis, but it’s important to understand that kidney transplantation is another form of therapy, not a permanent cure for end stage renal disease. Remember:

• daily intake of anti-rejection medication is very important
• regular follow-up visits are necessary
• a successful transplant can last for many years, but may not last forever
• if the transplant fails, dialysis is still an option