A kidney transplant is a procedure where a diseased or malfunctioning kidney is replaced with a healthy kidney that comes from a donor. The kidneys help filter toxins and remove them from the body. When they stop working properly, a person can become ill. There are many different conditions and health problems that can cause kidney failure.
Why a Person May Need a Kidney Transplant
A person may need a kidney transplant if the kidneys stop working properly or fail completely. There are many different diseases and illnesses that can cause one or both kidneys to malfunction. A person may be able to survive with one kidney until a donor kidney comes. Common reasons for a person to need a kidney transplant include:
- Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Chronic glomerulonephritis
- Polycystic kidney disease
Preparing for a Kidney Transplant
Before a patient can receive a kidney transplant, doctors must make sure the person is healthy enough to survive the procedure. Doctors will evaluate the patient by using a variety of tests, including:
- Physical exam
- CT scans
- Blood tests
- Psychological evaluation
On the day of the surgery, doctors may ask the patient to avoid eating and stop taking medications that may interfere with the anesthesia.
During the Kidney Transplant
During the kidney transplant, the doctor makes an incision in the abdomen and connects the new kidney. The old kidney remains in place unless it is causing health problems or is cancerous. The surgeon connects the blood vessels in the abdomen to the new kidney. Then, the new kidney’s ureter is attached to the bladder before the surgeon stitches up the incision.
Kidney Transplant Recovery
The recovery process for a kidney transplant is not a fast one. Many patients start to feel better after a few days but they must stay in the hospital for at least a week. They may experience some pain and swelling during the recovery. Doctors will monitor patients in the hospital to ensure that the donor kidney is not rejected and that the patient is recovering nicely. It can take months for the incision site to heel completely, and patients will sustain a scar.
Kidney Transplant Complications
Kidney surgery is a major surgery. There are some risks and complications associated with it. The most common include:
- Blood clots
- Leaking from or blockage of the tube (ureter) that links the kidney to the bladder
- Failure of the donated kidney
- Rejection of the donated kidney
- An infection or cancer that can be transmitted with the donated kidney
- Heart attack
Complications From the Anti-rejection Medication
Some patients also experience complications and reactions related to the anti-rejection medication given to them to prevent the body from rejecting the kidney. Those complications include:
- Bone thinning (osteoporosis) and bone damage (osteonecrosis)
- Excessive hair growth or hair loss
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Increased risk of cancer, particularly skin cancer and lymphoma
- Weight gain
Kidney Transplant Prognosis
Most people do well after a kidney transplant. A good prognosis depends on the patient’s care following the surgery and his or her overall health. Some people do reject the donor kidney and experience health problems as a result. In some cases, the new kidney fails to function properly too. This can result in another surgery.