People living with end-stage kidney (renal) disease need extra help filtering out waste and toxic substances as well as regulating blood pressure and pH balance. A kidney transplant adds a healthy kidney to help get your body back on track.
A chance for whole new kidney health
A lot has changed since we first started performing kidney transplants back in 1971. We can now remove a kidney through a small incision with a procedure called laparoscopic donor nephrectomy. And, immunosuppressant drugs have become more effective at helping your body accept its new kidney.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is our belief that everyone deserves a chance at a healthy life with a new kidney. Our track record backs up that belief:
- People who receive a living donor kidney transplant have a 96% survival rate.
- People who receive a deceased donor kidney transplant have a 92% survival rate.
And if you ever have questions or just need to talk, we're always here for you.
There are many conditions that can lead to end-stage kidney disease, including:
These conditions can start to take a toll on how each of your 2 kidneys function. When 1 or both of your kidneys can no longer filter blood, remove waste or make urine, it's time to talk about a kidney transplant with your doctor.
While we treat each person based on their unique needs, the first step in anyone’s kidney transplant journey is a transplant evaluation appointment. During this meeting, your care team will work with you to better understand your health goals and whether a kidney transplant is the right choice for you. Some of the factors we consider include:
- Activity level
- Cause of end-stage kidney disease
- Health history
- Availability of living donor (can help speed up the process)
After the evaluation, we’ll help you schedule one or more of the following tests that allow us to see the full picture of your health:
- Cardiac echocardiogram
- Cardiac stress test
- Certain cancer screenings (colonoscopy, mammogram, pap test, prostate cancer screening)
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
From there, we’ll use all the information at our disposal to determine if you’re eligible for a kidney transplant.
There are 2 ways to treat end-stage kidney disease: with a kidney transplant and dialysis. When the kidneys can no longer filter waste from the blood, dialysis is a treatment that performs the tasks that a healthy kidney would.
We recommend a transplant over dialysis because it offers a greater quality and longevity of life. However, wait times for a donor kidney that isn’t from a living donor can last 4–10 years. Understanding your transplant options can help us create a long-term treatment path together.
Types of kidney donors
The 3 types of kidney transplants available are based on who donated the kidney:
- Living-related: The kidney comes from a close, directly related family member like a parent, sibling or child who is healthy, willing and able to donate.
- Living-unrelated: The kidney is donated by someone who is alive but not closely related, such as a spouse, extended family member or a friend.
- Deceased: The kidney comes from someone not related to you who has died.
Getting a kidney transplant can have a big impact on your life. Kidneys donated by family members tend to have the best results because your similar genes make it less likely for your body to reject the new kidney.
If you have a potential donor in mind, we’ll determine their eligibility and answer any questions you both may have. Once you and your living donor are approved, we’ll schedule your transplant.
If a living donor isn’t an option for you, waiting for a deceased person’s kidney can be a heavy weight to bear. But it’s a burden you don’t have to carry alone. We’ll be by your side every step of the way, and will work to connect you with a matching donor as quickly as possible.
Special donation programs
Talk to your doctor to see if you’re a good fit for the alternative donation programs we offer. These programs can help reduce your wait time for a new kidney. Keep in mind, not everyone is a good candidate for them.
If a person with hepatitis C passes away and wishes to donate their organs, we perform an analysis called nucleic acid testing (NAT) to check if the virus is present in the organ.
People who receive a hepatitis C NAT positive kidney are almost certain to contract the disease themselves. We'll provide you with medications to remove the infection following the transplant. In fact, these medications are more than 95% effective at treating hepatitis C infection. You'll stay in close touch with your doctor to track your progress.
If you’re interested in participating in this program and your care team believes you’re a good fit, you’ll need to sign a consent form. You'll also join an info session with our infectious disease team to understand the pros and cons of a kidney transplant with an active hepatitis C infection.
Did you know that only 20–25% of the population has blood type B? That often means people with this blood type spend more time on a transplant waiting list.
Researchers have discovered that blood type A without the A1 antigen acts similarly to blood type O, the universal blood type. This gives people with blood type B shorter wait times and a greater pool of potential organs to choose from.
It's important to note that transplants like these can lead to an increased risk of organ rejection. Talk to your care team to find out if this program is right for you.
What to expect during a kidney transplant
A kidney transplant surgery usually lasts 2–4 hours. You’ll be placed under general anesthesia so that you’re relaxed and asleep the entire time. To complete the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in the lower abdomen and connect the new kidney to your blood vessels and bladder.
Kidney transplant recovery process
After the procedure is complete, you’ll stay in the hospital for another 3–5 days while we monitor your health and look for signs of organ rejection. Here’s what those 5 days could look like.
- Begin post-transplant education
- Drink water
- Start walking again
- Continue education sessions with our transplant pharmacist and coordinators
- Restart your regular diet
- Take a shower
- Head back to the comfort of your own home to continue your recovery
Shortly following your transplant, you can plan to meet with your doctor at the transplant clinic on a weekly basis. We'll also set up blood tests twice a week during those first few months. This way, we can closely monitor your new kidney's performance. And should you need to get in touch with us, we're here for you around the clock.
As time goes on, you'll have fewer visits starting from the 1-year mark after your transplant. Eventually, we'll work out a plan for follow-ups once or twice a year.
Preventing the kidney from being attacked by your immune system is the most important part of your post-transplant care plan. We use special drugs called immunosuppressants to help your body adapt to the new kidney. Most people receive “steroid-free” immunosuppression medication, which is less likely to cause unpleasant side effects.
Staying on top of your medications is incredibly important. If you skip your medications, even for a short while, it could harm your new kidney or even lead to complete rejection.