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Once your physician determines you are a candidate for transplant, and you've determined you want to pursue it, there are some key steps to keep in mind as you go through the process. Here's a look at the path to receiving a kidney transplant, and how to make it a successful treatment option when you have end stage renal disease (ESRD).
There are two types of kidney donors:
Tests are needed to determine if the donor and recipient are a good match to help increase the chances of a successful transplant. There are three tests: blood type matching, tissue matching and crossmatching.
If you have a potential living donor and the transplant team has determined that person is a good match, they will also undergo a thorough medical evaluation at the transplant center. If things go well, you and your living donor will be scheduled for the transplant surgery.
If you do not have a living donor, you will be placed on the waiting list for a cadaver organ.
If you do not have a living donor, your transplant center will place you on their waiting list for a kidney and you will need to register for the national transplant waiting list at United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). Here are some important things to know when you're on the waitlist:
Different techniques for kidney transplant surgery have been developed over the years. Typically, a large incision is made into the recipient patient's side. Advances in surgical tools and techniques have allowed surgeons to make as small an incision as possible. Your transplant surgeon will discuss the procedure with you, their choice of technique and answer any questions you have.
Depending on your condition, your surgeon may opt to remove the damaged kidney(s) or leave them. After the surgery, you will be hospitalized for several days and closely monitored for complications.
Some newly transplanted kidneys begin working right away. Others may start working after a couple of days. If your new kidney isn't working right away you'll receive dialysis until it does. You will remain hospitalized until your doctors are satisfied the new kidney is functioning and you are healthy enough to be released. Your living donor can be discharged from the hospital after a few days.
Initially, your transplant doctor and nephrologists will require many follow-up visits and tests for a couple of months after the transplant. They want to make sure your new kidney is healthy. Your doctors will also look for signs of complications such as:
You will remain under the care of your nephrologist for routine visits.
When you get a new kidney, it is critical to maintain healthy habits so your new kidney will function properly and give you years of use.
Part of the transplant aftercare is taking required medications. Your doctor will prescribe immunosuppressants, which you will need to take for as long as you have your new kidney. Any pre-existing health conditions you experienced before the transplant will need to be managed as well, especially conditions that contributed to your initial kidney damage such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
By keeping yourself healthy and following your doctors' recommendations, you may set yourself for a successful kidney transplantation. Of course, there are no guarantees.
Know someone who would like to donate a kidney? Visit the National Kidney Registry to start the process.
Want to become an organ donor? Visit OrganDonor.gov to sign up.View More Articles ›
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