by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Kidney transplant is a Surgery to place a donor kidney in the body. The new kidney will take over the job of the damaged kidneys. The kidney may come from a living donor or from someone who has died.
Normal Anatomy of the Kidney
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A kidney transplant is a treatment option for people who have kidney failure. Kidneys perform vital work for the body. If they cannot work as needed it can lead to severe illness and death. The donor kidney can take over the work that the damaged kidneys can’t do.
A transplant may also be done in people who had both kidneys removed.
Your doctor will review potential problems. Potential problems from the transplant surgery may include:
The immune system can attack the new kidney since it is foreign tissue. Medicine will be needed to decrease this reaction. Problems due to the immune system or medicine used to treat it can develop later. They may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
There is a shortage of donors. You may be on a transplant list for some time. You may need to carry a cell phone with you at all times. This will allow the transplant team to reach you if a kidney becomes available.
Testing before the surgery may include:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
An incision will be made in the lower belly. The donated kidney will be connected to blood vessels. Blood flow can then pass to the new kidney. The tube that carries the urine to the bladder will also be attached.
The diseased kidney will often be left in place. It may need to be removed if it is causing problems. It may also be removed if more room is needed. The surgeon will close tissue at the incision. The new kidney may start making urine right away or within a short time.
Recovery will start in the intensive care unit (ICU). Care will include:
About 3-6 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There will be discomfort after the procedure. Medicine will help to manage pain until you have healed.
The usual length of stay is 1 to 2 weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have problems.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will need to:
The new kidney may help you feel better overall. Many will start to feel better within the first few days.
Your new kidney will need to be monitored. Your doctor may ask you to check your weight and urine output. You will need to go to regular doctor visits and tests to make sure the kidney is working well. It is also important to let your doctor know if you have changes in urine output, weight, or signs of rejection.
Pressure to the new kidney will need to avoided. Some activity will be limited. Driving will also be banned until your doctor has cleared you.
There will be some limits to your diet but not as many as you had for dialysis.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Urology Care Foundation
Kidney Cancer Canada
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
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Greco F, Fornara P, Mirone V. Renal transplantation: technical aspects, diagnosis and management of early and late urological complications. Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):17-29.
Immunosuppression in kidney transplantation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T912632/Immunosuppression-in-kidney-transplantation . Updated July 24, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Kidney transplant. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneytransnewlease. Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Kidney (renal) transplantation.Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated January 2011. Accessed August 29, 2017.
11/30/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115336/Chronic-kidney-disease-CKD-in-adults : Stock PG, Barin B, Murphy B, et al. Outcomes of kidney transplantation in HIV-infected recipients. N Engl J Med. 2010;363(21):2004-2014.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 9/30/2013