What to Expect from a Kidney Transplant Surgery

The thought of getting a kidney transplant can be both exciting and a little scary especially because of the surgical procedure associated with it. While kidney transplantation is a major surgical procedure, it has a very high success rate. When a person gets the call about an available kidney, Here is what often follows.


Arriving for the kidney transplantation procedure—pre-op


When the hospital admits a patient, the transplant team in the hospital will conduct final tests to ensure the patient is ready for surgery and that the kidney is the right match. These tests can show two outcomes:


1. If the tests show the patient is sick or the kidney is not the right match, he or she may be sent home and they might not be able to receive the transplant and will need to wait for another kidney. .

2. If the tests show the patient is well and the kidney is a match, he or she will likely be approved for surgery and brought to the operating room.


The actual kidney transplant surgery—the procedure


Once the patient is prepped for surgery, he or she will be given general anesthesia. The surgeon and team will then begin their work in the operating room. The new kidney is typically added below the existing kidneys.* To add the new kidney to the body, a cut is made on the lower stomach. The new kidney is placed in the body through this opening and is then connected to the blood vessels and the bladder. Once everything is connected, the cut is sewn up. The surgical team will closely watch the patient afterwards to make sure everything is functioning normally. Most transplantation procedures take two to three hours to perform. Setup for the procedure and recovery may take some extra time.


*In most cases, the surgeon will leave the recipient’s own kidneys alone. In some instances, the surgeon will remove one or both of the patient’s original kidneys. The surgeon will discuss the process with the patient before the procedure.


Recovery from a kidney transplant—post-op


Most patients will stay in the hospital for a few days after receiving a transplant. The new kidney may start making urine immediately on the operating room table but in some instances, it takes a few days for the kidney to recover completely and start making urine. In those instances will require additional support and may need dialysis before their new kidney is functioning fully. As with most major surgical procedures, patients should not lift heavy objects or do strenuous exercise for typically a month or two. Most patients, after transplantation can return to normal activities, including work, in a month or two after. Patients and care partners should talk to their doctor and transplant team about how to make recovery after receiving a transplant as successful as possible.