A transplant is a treatment for end stage kidney disease but is not a cure. A transplant potentially offers a longer, more active life, free from dialysis.
You can have a transplant if you are medically suitable. Transplant kidneys come from either a living donor or a deceased donor. If the transplant is from a living donor, the operation can be done before you need dialysis. The average wait for a kidney from a deceased donor is about four years.
Success of kidney transplants
Kidney transplants are very successful. Over 94 per cent of transplants are working one year later.
Further statistics can be found here.
Suitability for a transplant
You need to be reasonably healthy to have a transplant. Surgery and the drugs used to prevent rejection can place a strain on your body and cause problems if you are not well.
Medical tests used to assess your health before a transplant can include:
- a physical examination
- blood tests
- X-rays of the heart and lungs
- ultrasounds and other imaging of the heart to ensure it is healthy
- a surgical review of your arteries, veins and bladder
- periodic tests to make sure that you have not built up anti-bodies.
Donating a kidney
Kidneys are either donated from a living donor or from a deceased person.
If you have someone who is going to be a living donor, they will need to undergo a number of tests to determine if they are healthy enough to give a kidney.
It’s also important that their kidney is a good match for your body. Where you are not suitably matched to each other directly, there can sometimes be a ‘swap system’ between other donors and recipients.
In Australia, kidneys are donated freely, but there is a scheme to financially support those who work during the period of surgery. You can find out about this scheme here.
For more information on organ donation, click here.
Having a transplant
When preparing for kidney transplant, maximise your general health and fitness. Staying as fit and healthy as possible helps you remain suitable for a transplant and aids your recovery.
It’s a good idea to have regular health and dental checks.
You should also maintain your:
- recommended dietary and fluid restrictions
- dialysis schedule
- regular fitness or exercise plan
- ideal body weight for your age and size (being overweight increases the risk of problems during surgery).
Links to fact sheets and other helpful information are available in our Resource Library.
The transplant procedure
During surgery, the new kidney is placed in position. Your kidneys are not usually removed.
Sometimes if you have large polycystic kidneys, one may be removed to make space for the transplant.
The operation usually takes two to three hours with one to two hours in recovery. The new kidney is connected to your bladder so urine can flow and a tube or catheter is placed in your bladder for up to five days.
The catheter and any other tubes are usually removed after one to four days. Some kidneys start to work straight away but others may take a few days or a few weeks.
You can find out more by viewing these videos on kidney transplantation.
Links to fact sheets and other helpful information can be found here: Resource Library.
After the transplant
You will be in hospital for about a week, depending on how quickly you recover from the surgery. The transplanted kidney will be closely monitored with blood tests and sometimes scans.
The tests will start daily and then reduce to weekly after around three to six months, according to how long it takes for your kidney to work properly.
You will take medications for the life of the transplanted kidney. These stop your body from rejecting the kidney. They can, however, make you more prone to serious illnesses such as infections and cancers.
Sometimes if a kidney stops working it’s because people stop taking these medications. Along with general health and fitness, your kidney will last longer if you follow advice about caring for your kidney.
Before you decide to have a transplant it’s important to talk to your doctor and understand the risks.
Links to fact sheets and other helpful information is available in our Resource Library.
Transplant and travel
When travelling after you have had a kidney transplant, you require special attention to ensure that both you and your kidney stay healthy.
The first step is always to talk to the medical person who takes care of you and your transplant before you finalise any plans.
We have a special fact sheet, developed in association with Michele Hervey of QLD, that provides detail and lots of useful tips about travelling with a kidney transplant. Open the Transplant and Travel fact sheet here.