A kidney transplant is a surgery that puts a healthy kidney from another person into your body when your kidneys stop working. The kidney can come from a living person or from someone who has just died. The transplanted kidney goes inside your abdomen (belly) in the lower, front part of the body.
One of the main risks of a kidney transplant is rejection. Rejection happens when your body attacks the new kidney. This is a normal reaction to anything that is foreign in your body, but it can hurt the new kidney.
You will need to take medicines for the rest of your life to stop your body from rejecting (attacking) your 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 for signs of rejection and tell your 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, your body can reject a kidney even if you are taking medicines to stop this from happening.
Most kidney transplants last for years, but you might need another one someday.
A kidney transplant lets you live a more normal life. Some of the benefits are that:
- you will not need to go to dialysis after your new kidney starts working
- there will be fewer limits on what you can eat and drink
- you will probably have more energy
- you may be healthier overall
- you might live longer
Many tests are needed before you can be considered for a kidney transplant, such as blood tests, imaging tests, and a psychosocial evaluation. These tests show your overall health and how well you can handle the surgery.
If a kidney transplant is right for you, your 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 their kidneys and is a good match for you, the surgery can happen sooner.
When you are on the waiting list for a kidney, you should be ready to go to the hospital at any time. If you are getting a kidney from a living person, your surgery can be scheduled ahead of time.
When there is a donor kidney available for you, more tests will be done to make sure it is a good match.
Before the surgery you will get anesthesia [an-uh s-THEE-zhuh], medicine that stops you from feeling anything and puts you to sleep. A kidney transplant usually takes about 4 hours. The new kidney will be connected to your bladder and major blood vessels. Your own kidneys will probably be left inside your body.
You will probably feel sore after the surgery. You 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 will learn about:
- the medicines you need and how to take them
- what you should eat and drink
- what signs to watch for
- when to come back for checkups and tests
A kidney that came from another living person can start to work soon after the transplant surgery. A kidney that came from someone who died may take longer to start working, so you might need dialysis for a few weeks after surgery.
- You should watch for signs of rejection and tell your doctor right away if you have any of them.
- You will need regular checkups after a kidney transplant, especially during the first year. You might need to get blood tests a few times a week.
- Tests will be done to see whether you are taking the right kinds and amounts of antirejection medicine. Your medicines may be adjusted. Tell your doctor about any side effects your medicines are causing.
- You might need to take other kinds of medicine to prevent possible infections.
- You should eat a low-fat, low-salt diet and drinks lots of fluids.
- You might be able to go back to work or school in about eight weeks.