If you have kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a kidney transplant may be a life-changing option for you. Just last year, more than 23,000 kidney transplants were performed in the U.S., making it one of the more common transplant procedures performed.
I’m the Medical Director of Temple’s Kidney Transplant Program. When my team and I meet and talk to patients about kidney transplant, they naturally have a number of questions. At this stage, they’ve been through a lot, and this is a big life-changing decision.
Our goal is to help patients feel good about our commitment to them, and that usually starts with helping them understand what they’ll go through. Kidney transplantation is a gift, and we want them to feel that too.
The information I’m sharing here is based on the most common questions we receive from patients:
- Should I stay on dialysis or have a kidney transplant?
- How does a kidney transplant work?
- What’s the difference between deceased donor and living donor?
- Is kidney transplant safe?
- Is kidney transplant successful?
- What should I expect after my kidney transplant?
- I’ve heard of kidney transplant rejection. What is that and what are the symptoms?
- Where do I get a kidney transplant?
Should I stay on dialysis or have a kidney transplant?
When your kidneys no longer function properly due to kidney failure, your nephrologist usually offers you 2 options: dialysis or kidney transplant. Many times patients are on dialysis while they wait for transplantation, so it’s important to understand what that involves.
Our patients sometimes find dialysis to be restrictive, because appointments and maintenance take up a lot of time. Plus, dialysis only replaces part of your kidney’s function. It’s imperative that your nephrologist monitors you closely alongside your primary care provider to help ensure you’re receiving exceptional care.
With a successful kidney transplant, many of our patients are able to live more normally than with dialysis. That’s because life on dialysis means you are dependent on dialysis, which acts as your artificial kidney. With a kidney transplant, life is completely different. In my experience, it can help people get their lives back, and that’s truly a gift.
How does a kidney transplant work?
During a kidney transplant, we replace your damaged kidney with one from a living donor or deceased donor. A transplant surgeon connects your new kidney to an artery and vein in your groin and to the ureter. This allows excess fluid and waste to be carried in the urine through the bladder from your new kidney.
What’s the difference between deceased donor and living donor?
We’ve made quite a few advances in kidney transplant over the last 50 years. Today, you may receive your kidney from a donor who is living, or from someone upon their death:
A deceased donor is a person who decides to donate a kidney to help people who need transplants. Their family members can also make the decision.
A living donor can be a family member or friend, or someone whom you do not know who makes the decision to donate one of their kidneys.
Is kidney transplant safe?
We make sure to always tell our patients that as with any surgery, kidney transplant does involve risks. You’ll be required to take medicines called immunosuppressants to help your body accept the new organ.
For many patients, kidney transplantation is an excellent option, even for patients who are usually considered high risk, including:
- Older patients
- People who are immunosuppressed
- Those who have multiple conditions or comorbidities
Is kidney transplant successful?
Both a deceased donor organ and a living donor organ are excellent life-changing options and are highly successful.