Kidney Transplant: What You Need to Know

What do actor George Lopez and NBA champion Alonzo Mourning have in common? Besides being extremely talented in what they do for a living, each of them has received a transplanted kidney. Success stories like these, along with advances in medications, surgery techniques and donor matching, make kidney transplant a viable alternative to dialysis for thousands of people every year. For more information about dialysis patients transitioning to a kidney transplant, go here.

Alonzo Mourning and George Lopez talk about kidney transplants.

If you’re nearing the need for dialysis and would like to explore getting a transplant, start the discussion with your nephrologist. Your doctor will discuss the transplant process with you, which generally starts with being referred to a transplant center for further evaluation. While transplant requirements vary between centers, you’ll most likely undergo comprehensive medical tests to determine if you’re a viable candidate. If you are, then the search for a donor can begin.

National Donate Life Month news conference

Finding a match

There are two types of organ donors: a living donor and a non-living, or cadaver, donor. Compatibility between a patient and the donor reduces the chances of organ rejection and can contribute to a more successful transplant. Additionally, because medication to help prevent organ rejection is so effective, donors don’t always have to be genetically similar to the recipient.

If you don’t have a potential living donor, you will be placed on the waiting list for a cadaver organ and will need to register for the national transplant waiting list at United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). The wait for a transplant can vary greatly depending on the type of donation you receive, your geographic location and current health.

Know someone who would like to donate a kidney? Visit the National Kidney Registry to start the progress.

Going in for surgery

You’ll be scheduled for surgery as soon as an appropriate organ match has been identified. In most cases, your surgeon will leave your kidneys in place and simply place the new, healthy kidney in a different location in your abdomen. You will remain in the hospital for several days after the surgery and be monitored for any complications.

Common transplant concerns

While your age and health conditions prior to the transplant surgery can affect the risk of complications, there are three common post-transplant concerns.

Rejection: Medication will be prescribed to help ensure your body accepts the new kidney.

Functionality: In some cases, the newly transplanted kidney begins working right away, while in others it may require dialysis for a few days before it starts functioning normally.

Organ lifespan: The average life span for a donated kidney is 10 to 15 years. When a transplant fails, a patient may opt for a second transplant or return to dialysis.

Taking care of your new kidney

Maintaining healthy habits and following your doctors’ recommendations is vital to help your new kidney function properly so you can have a better quality of life for years to come. Get more details about this alternative to dialysis.