A kidney transplant is a surgery in which a person with end-stage renal disease receives a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor. The new kidney takes over the kidney functions no longer possible by the damaged kidney, such as filtering waste from the blood, and more. Because one kidney can often do the job of two, only a single donated kidney is required, even if both your kidneys have failed.
With a kidney transplant, there is no need for ongoing dialysis. In fact, a kidney transplant is the only way to cure end-stage renal disease.
Given the option, most patients with renal failure prefer a kidney transplant rather than undergoing dialysis for the rest of their lives. Indeed, having a kidney transplant is associated with a longer life, lower cost of treatment, greater dietary choices, and improved quality of life than with dialysis.
Your Transplant Choices
A kidney transplant isn’t for everyone. It’s best to discuss your unique situation with your kidney care doctor, like the board-certified nephrologists at Associates in Nephrology. There are advantages and disadvantages to all treatment choices – and the same is true for a kidney transplant.
Your transplant choices may be called different things, depending on when you get the transplant and where the donor's kidney comes from.
When a Transplant Occurs
In general, patients often experience better long-term outcomes the less time they spend on dialysis prior to the transplant procedure.
- Preemptive kidney transplant – when a transplant occurs before a patient reaches end-stage renal failure, so they essentially skip having to undergo dialysis
- Early kidney transplant – when a transplant occurs shortly after kidney failure but after a patient has already undergone dialysis, at least for a brief period of time
Source of the Donor Kidney
There are two ways to get a kidney for a transplant:
- Deceased-donor kidney transplant – receiving the organ from a donor who has recently died and previously consented to the organ donation
- Living-donor kidney transplant – receiving the organ from someone who chooses to donate a kidney while they are alive and well
A living-donor kidney is often preferred because it begins to work in the recipient’s body faster than an organ donated by a deceased donor. Additionally, patients who received kidneys from living donors tend to experience better long-term survival rates than those who received kidneys from the recently deceased. However, perhaps the No. 1 reason a living donor is recommended is due to the fact that the waitlist for a deceased-donor kidney is extremely long because the demand for healthy kidneys often exceeds the available supply.
People who are genetically related to you are likely to be the best sources of a living-donor kidney. However, if a family member or loved one is willing to donate a kidney but isn’t a good match for you, paired kidney exchanges are becoming more common. In these cases, you and your incompatible living donor are matched with another incompatible recipient-donor pair that you each are compatible with.
What to Expect If You’re a Good Candidate for a Transplant
In most cases, your damaged kidney will remain where it is – and the new kidney will be transplanted into the abdominal area, where it is more easily connected to your bladder and circulatory system. The nonfunctioning kidney can safely remain in place and is only removed if it is significantly enlarged or caused other complications.
Preventing Organ Rejection
A kidney transplant is a major surgery, and as with any surgery, there are risks involved. The most common complication after transplant surgery is a rejection of the new kidney. The body's immune system may see the new kidney as a foreign object and try to destroy it.
To prevent this from happening, people who receive transplanted kidneys must take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives. These drugs can have serious side effects, such as an increased risk of infection and cancer. Additionally, prior to the transplant, patients and their intended donors must undergo tests – such as blood typing, tissue typing, and cross-matching – to help prevent the risk of organ rejection.
Despite these risks, however, the transplant can greatly improve the quality and length of life of someone with end-stage renal disease. Indeed, it is a real lifesaver.
Kidney Transplants in Brockton & Taunton, MA
If you are experiencing renal failure, be sure you talk to a kidney doctor to find out what your kidney transplant options are. Contact the kidney treatment professionals at Associates in Nephrology in Brockton & Taunton, Massachusetts by calling (508) 587-0700 to schedule your visit – or request your appointment now.