Kidney Transplant Options - What you need to know about kidney disease

Kidney Transplantation

Every day, your kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid.  When your kidneys fail, harmful wastes and extra salt and fluid buildup in your body. You then need treatment to replace the work your damaged kidneys have stopped doing. Treatment options include hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, no treatment and a kidney transplant for people who are eligible due to medical criteria. Unless your damaged kidneys cause infections or high blood pressure or are cancerous, they can remain in your body.

If you are considered fit for transplantation, the benefits and risks have been explained to you and various tests have been undertaken, you will be put on the transplant waiting list.

A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a kidney is removed from one person (donor) and placed into the body of a person suffering from renal failure (recipient), in whom the transplanted kidney can perform all the functions which the patient’s own kidneys are not able to perform. The transplanted kidney takes over the job of filtering your blood. Your body normally attacks anything it sees as foreign, so you need to take medicines called immunosuppressants to keep your body from attacking the new kidney.

Surgeons place most transplanted kidneys in the lower abdomen, near the groin. The surgeon connects the artery and vein from the donor kidney to an artery and a vein in your body so your blood flows through your new kidney. The surgeon attaches the ureter from the donor kidney to your bladder, letting urine flow from the new kidney to your bladder. The new kidney may start working right away or may take up to a few weeks to make urine.

If the new kidney does not start working right away, you will need dialysis treatments to filter wastes and extra salt and fluid from your body until it does start working. Unless your damaged kidneys cause infections or high blood pressure or are cancerous, they can remain in your body.

The United Network for Organ Sharing  (UNOS) maintains the waiting list.

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Kidney Donation

Over 100,000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant.  Learn the facts from Donate Life.

There is a critical shortage of donor organs in the U.S., and the time spent waiting for a lifesaving organ can be several years. There are, however, steps you can take to help ease this shortage. Who knows… the life that you save may be that of a loved one or friend.

Living donor kidney transplant

Any person who offers a kidney to a family member or friend undergoes many tests to ensure that they are fit and healthy, and have two well-functioning kidneys.  Detailed compatibility tests are done and some people who wish to donate a kidney cannot proceed, as the risks may be too great to them.  If kidney disease is detected (before the need for dialysis – GFR of 20) early, a transplant can be done to avoid the need for the recipient to go on dialysis.

Paired donation

A donor and recipient whose blood groups or tissue types are mismatched (or incompatible) can be paired with another donor and recipient in the same situation. This is called ‘paired donation’. Sometimes, more than two donors and two recipients will be involved in the swap (called ‘pooled donation’) but each recipient will benefit from a transplant that they would not otherwise have had. Local transplant centers will assess whether people are suitable to be put forward for paired donation program.

Altruistic donation is also an option when a complete stranger donates to someone who needs a kidney. Visit Transplantliving.org for more info.

Listen to these KidneyTalk Podcasts about Kidney Tranplant
Read these Health Library article on Kidney Tranplant
9 Myths about Organ Donation
9 myths about organ donation