Why Your Doctor May Recommend a Kidney Transplant
Our kidneys filter blood to reduce fluid levels in our bodies and remove harmful waste. Our kidneys can lose their ability to filter effectively as the result of a number of conditions, which can include:
• Chronic and uncontrolled high blood pressure
• Polycystic kidney disease
• Chronic inflammation of the kidneys, known as glomerulonephritis
The loss of kidney function is known as renal disease. When a person has lost 90 percent of their kidney function, they are considered to have end stage renal disease.
While it is possible to continue to filter the blood using dialysis, a kidney transplant can offer a greater degree of freedom and a higher quality of life.
About 17,000 kidney transplants are performed every year, and can significantly improve a patient’s overall health.
There are a number of factors that can determine whether you are considered a good candidate for a kidney transplant. These include factors such as the time you have spent on dialysis, your expected surgery preparedness, how well other medical conditions are controlled and other factors.
The Kidney Transplant Procedure
Kidney transplants can come from live or non-living donors. In most cases, live transplants come from a close relative. If you do not have a match, a transplant can come from a stranger engaging in a paired exchange or a donation change. In this arrangement, people enter into agreements to donate to a stranger who is a match in exchange for someone else donating to one of their loved ones. Non-living donors are people who have died suddenly and chose before death to be organ donors.
Transplants are performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. After surgery, you may continue to receive IV fluids for several days. Your doctors will monitor your progress and release you when you are healthy enough to go home.
Kidney Transplant Risks and Benefits
The most prominent risk after a kidney transplant is organ rejection. This occurs when the body attacks the new organ as if it is an invading organism. Because of this, people who have transplants must take immunosuppressant medications for the rest of their lives. These medications can have a number of side effects because they suppress the body’s immune system.
After a kidney transplant, you will still need to follow a special diet. This diet is less extreme than a dialysis diet.
In some rare cases, you can contract an infection or disease from a kidney transplant. While all organs are screened for common diseases, about one or two people in every 100 who received organ donations suffers an infection of some type.
A donated kidney may last anywhere from 10 to 12 years. Many patients will eventually need a second transplant.
While you will be able to return to normal activities about two weeks after a transplant, you will not be able to engage in some activities that others are able to. For instance, experts do not recommend that people who have had kidney transplants engage in contact sports. If you are considering a transplant, talk to your doctor about activities that are okay after surgery.
Kidney transplants can help kidney patients feel better. They can free them from dialysis and allow them to live more active lives. Are you suffering from kidney disease? Talk to one of our nephrologists to learn about your suitability for a kidney transplant.