One of the main risks of a kidney transplant is rejection. Rejection happens when your child’s body attacks the new kidney. This is a normal reaction to anything that is foreign in the body, but it can hurt the new kidney.
Your child will need to take medicines for the rest of their life to stop the body from rejecting (attacking) the new kidney. These medicines are called antirejection medicines or immunosuppressants [im-YOO-noh-suh-PRESS-uhnts]. They can have side effects, but for most people the side effects are manageable.
You should watch your child for signs of rejection and tell your child’s doctor right away if you notice any of them. Some of the signs are fever, swelling, pain over the kidney, and urinating (peeing) less.
Sometimes, the body can reject a kidney even if your child is taking medicines to stop this from happening.
Most kidney transplants last for years, but your child might need more than one transplant during their lifetime.
A kidney transplant lets your child live a more normal life. Some of the benefits for your child are:
- No need to go to dialysis after the new kidney starts working normally
- Fewer limits on what your child can eat and drink
- Having more energy
- Being healthier overall
- Living longer
Many tests are needed before your child can be considered for a kidney transplant. These include blood tests, imaging tests, and an evaluation of the child’s and the family’s mental and emotional health. These tests show your child’s overall health and how well they can handle the surgery.
If a kidney transplant is right for your child, their name will be placed on a waiting list. The waiting period for a new kidney can be a few months to a few years. If there is a living person who wants to donate one of his or her kidneys for your child and is a good match, the surgery can happen sooner.
When your child is on the waiting list for a kidney, you should be ready to go to the hospital at any time. If your child is getting a kidney from a living person, your child’s surgery can be scheduled ahead of time.
When there is a donor kidney available for your child, more tests will be done to make sure that the donor’s kidney will be a good match for your body.
Before the surgery, your child will get anesthesia [an-uh s-THEE-zhuh], medicine to make them fall asleep so they won’t feel anything during the surgery. A kidney transplant usually takes about 4 hours. The new kidney will be connected to your child’s bladder and major blood vessels. The original kidneys are typically left inside the body.
Your child will probably feel sore after the surgery but might be able to get out of bed in a day or so and go home from the hospital in about a week. Before you go home, you and your child will learn about:
- The medicines they need and how to take them
- How to avoid getting infections
- What they should eat and drink
- What signs to watch for
You should watch your child for signs of rejection and tell your doctor right away if your child has any of them.
Your child will need regular checkups after a kidney transplant, especially during the first year. Your child might need to get blood tests a few times a week.
Tests will be done to see whether your child is taking the right kinds and amounts of antirejection medicine. Medicine doses may be adjusted. You should tell your child’s doctor about any side effects the medicines are causing.
Other considerations include that your child:
- Might need to take other kinds of medicine to prevent possible infections, which can be more of a problem due to the antirejection medicines
- Should eat a low-fat, low-salt diet and drink lots of fluids
- Might be able to go back to school in about 8 weeks
- Transplant Living
- American Society of Transplantation
- American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) patient and family videos:
A kidney transplant is a surgery that puts a healthy kidney from another person into your child’s body when your child’s kidneys stop working. Since people can live with only one kidney, it is possible for a kidney to come from a living person. It can also come from someone who has just died. The transplanted kidney goes inside your child’s abdomen (belly) in the lower, front part of the body and is connected to the bladder with a new ureter (the tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder).
If your child’s kidney’s no longer function, your child may need to have dialysis until their transplant surgery. Dialysis is a treatment that cleans the blood to remove wastes when the kidneys can no longer do so. Ask your doctor about dialysis options for your child.