The kidneys are an important part of the body that help regulate waste materials in the blood by filtering them into urine. When one or both of the kidneys stop functioning due to kidney disease, it may be necessary to replace one or both with a healthy kidney.
Specialists at The University of Kansas Health System are experts in kidney transplant, which is the procedure of replacing a failing kidney with one that is healthy.
What is a kidney transplant?
Chronic renal failure happens when the kidneys no longer work to remove waste from blood. The most common treatment for this condition is hemodialysis, in which a machine is used to clean the blood supply in place of the kidneys.
Although dialysis is an effective treatment for renal failure, it is not a substitute for the natural functioning of a healthy kidney. For this reason, doctors typically prefer to remove a failing kidney and replace it with one that is healthy. Kidney transplant surgery is a procedure in which a kidney is surgically removed and replaced with a healthy kidney that has been donated by another person.
Who can have kidney transplant surgery?
Anyone who is experiencing renal failure due to kidney disease is a potential candidate for kidney transplant surgery. Not all those who experience kidney disease are eligible for a kidney transplant, however.
Some people may have medical conditions, such as other chronic illness, that reduce or eliminate the viability of a kidney transplant, such as:
- Certain congenital diseases
- Persistent infection that is untreatable or recurring
- Severe obesity
- The presence of active cancer or recently treated cancer
- Uncontrollable hypertension (high blood pressure)
When a patient is experiencing renal failure, they are otherwise healthy and a matching donor is found, they then become a candidate for kidney transplant surgery. The supply of donor kidneys is much smaller than the number of those who need a transplant, so the wait to receive a donated kidney can take time.
How does a kidney transplant work?
Although kidney transplant surgery is complex, the goal of the procedure itself is relatively simple: to replace a nonfunctioning kidney with one that is healthy. A kidney transplant removes the need for dialysis and leads to far improved quality of life for those patients who receive it.
You could save a life
If you have 2 healthy kidneys, you may be eligible to donate. Kidneys from living donors usually function much longer and have lower rejection rates than kidneys from deceased donors.
Benefits and risks of receiving a kidney transplant
Like any major surgery, a kidney transplant does come with risks such as infection, bleeding and possible complications due to anesthesia. The primary risk associated with organ transplant is the rejection of the new organ by your body. Medicines are prescribed to those who receive a kidney transplant to reduce or eliminate the body’s rejection, but these medicines also carry a small risk for increasing the chance of getting infections or cancer.
However, the benefits of kidney transplant surgery are an increased life span as well as a greatly increased quality of life. Although people can survive for a long time solely receiving dialysis treatments, a healthy kidney will provide far better outcomes long-term.
What happens during kidney transplant surgery?
Kidney transplants are a form of open surgery and are performed under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make an incision in the lower part of the abdomen and place the new kidney next to the existing kidney.
The new kidney is attached to the blood vessels and urinary tract of the person receiving it. Often, the failed kidney is left in place unless it has additional complications such as kidney stones.
A person who has kidney surgery may spend 24-48 hours in intensive care and the rest of their hospital stay in transplant care, typically 5-10 days. During this time, the kidney is closely monitored for possible signs of rejection.
In most cases, the new kidney begins to produce urine immediately after it's supplied with blood, reaching normal functioning levels anywhere from 3-15 days after surgery. Additional medications or dialysis may be necessary until the new kidney begins to function normally.
Before discharge, the nephrologist and transplant coordinator will give instructions for taking medications as well as educating the transplant recipient about the warning signs of transplant failure. A schedule is created for follow-up care to ensure the kidney continues to function properly.
Why choose us for kidney transplant surgery
The University of Kansas Health System has the highest 3-year success rate for kidney transplant survival among all transplanting centers in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
All of our doctors are faculty members at The University of Kansas School of Medicine. As experts in their field, they teach medical students, residents and laboratory professionals innovative approaches to diagnosing, preventing and treating kidney disease.