Kidney transplants have revolutionised life for many people with kidney failure. Dialysis only keeps you OK – a successful transplant restores your health. This is a very short introduction. If you are likely to be a transplant patient, you will need to know more. Further information is available from Transplant Units.
Am I suitable for a kidney transplant?
Medical staff will discuss transplantation with you. For the majority of patients transplantation is the ultimate goal, but for some, particularly those with other medical conditions, long-term dialysis may be the best option.
If transplantation is an option for you, you will undergo a series of blood tests and X-rays. After this, you will be referred to a transplant surgeon for further assessment. At this stage you will be given more information about the actual procedure.
Where does the transplant come from?
Most patients receive a kidney from someone who has died in hospital on a life support machine. However the best transplants come from living people – who must be a close relative, or in certain cases, a partner or close friend. Live donor transplants can be carefully planned, instead of coming as a surprise at any time, and the kidney is proved in advance to be very healthy.
What sort of operation is needed?
The transplanted kidney is placed in one or other groin beneath the skin and muscle. As with most operations, you may feel a bit groggy for a couple of days.
All being well, you will soon be up and about and home within a couple of weeks.
How long will I have to wait?
The number of kidneys required greatly exceeds the number available, and you may have to wait a long time (sometimes years) before a kidney suited to your blood group and tissue type is found. Some patients, however, are lucky and get a kidney transplant within a few months. The type or place of treatment is irrelevant – the time you wait depends entirely on availability and suitability of the organ available. It is not a queue – it is to some extent a matter of luck.
What special medication will I need?
To prevent your body rejecting the new kidney, you will have to take some special drugs. These are tailored to each individual’s requirements, but you will need to take at least one anti-rejection drug every day for as long as you have the transplant. Some of the medicines used are described in Immunosuppressive drugs for kidney diseases .
Diet after transplant
There is no need for a special renal diet following a transplant.
You will, however, be advised about a healthy diet containing not too much sugar or salt, plenty of fruit, vegetables and fibre, but with less fat, particularly animal fat.
You will be encouraged to maintain a healthy weight for your height.
Please be aware that while we have made all effort to ensure that this brief information is accurate, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes. Also that the best management for individual patients may differ from that outlined here. Only the doctors caring for the patient will be able to advise on this.