Everything you need to know about kidney transplantation

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A surgical procedure which is done to treat kidney failure is called kidney transplantation. Kidneys help in filtering waste from the blood and in removing it from the body through urine. Kidneys also help in maintaining the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. In case the kidneys stop working, the waste builds up in our body and can make us very sick. 

People suffering from kidney failure undergo a treatment called dialysis. The treatment helps in mechanically filtering waste which builds up in the bloodstream when the kidneys stop functioning. 

A few individuals whose kidneys fail might qualify for a kidney transplantation. Either one or both kidneys of the patient can be replaced with donor kidneys  from a live or deceased person. 

There are several pros and cons for both dialysis and kidney transplants. 

Dialysis is a time taking process and is labor-intensive. The patient will have to make frequent trips to the dialysis center for receiving treatment. The blood is cleansed at the dialysis center using a dialysis machine. 

For undergoing dialysis at your homes, there should be adequate dialysis supplies and a person who knows how to use them. 

A kidney transplant can free a patient from long-term dependence on a dialysis machine and the strict schedule which goes along with it. It can help him lead a more active life with at least one functioning kidney. While undergoing transplant, the patient will have to take immune-suppressing medications to prevent his/her immune system from attacking the new organ. 

Who might require a kidney transplant?

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End-stage renal disease (ESRD) or end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) is a condition where kidneys stop functioning completely. As the patient reaches this point, the doctor is likely to recommend dialysis. 

In addition to putting the patient on dialysis, the doctor will suggest the candidate to go for a kidney transplant. 

A good candidate for kidney transplant should be healthy enough and must be willing to undergo a strict medication regimen post surgery. He/she should be very obedient to the doctor. 

A kidney transplant might prove fatal for people with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, tuberculosis, bone infections, severe cardiovascular disease and liver disease. 

Kidney transplant is also not recommended for people who smoke, drink alcohol in excess, or use illicit drugs. 

If declared fit for transplant, the patient will be evaluated at the transplant center. The doctors at the center will conduct several tests including the patient’s blood and urine tests.

The candidate will have the constant support of a psychologist and a social worker. The social worker will make sure the patient is financially secured to meet the expenses of the elaborate procedure. 

Either a family member can donate a kidney for the patient or the candidate will be placed on a waiting list with Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). 

Who donates the kidney?

Kidney donors can be either living or deceased. 

Living donors

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Our body can function perfectly well with just one kidney. Hence a family member of the patient with two healthy kidneys can be an ideal donor. 

Receiving a kidney from a family member can avoid the prolonged wait and also reduces the risk of the patient’s body rejecting the kidney.

Deceased donors

They are also called cadaver donors. A cadaver organ is always a good alternative in case there isn’t any family member or friend who is willing to donate a kidney.

How is kidney transplant performed?

If the patient is receiving the kidney from a living donor, then the kidney transplantation can be scheduled in advance. 

The patient will be cleared for surgery only if the antibody test emerges as a negative crossmatch.

Kidney transplant is performed under general anesthesia. 

During the surgery, the doctor makes an incision in the patient’s abdomen, and places the donor kidney inside. Following this, the arteries and veins are connected properly. Hence, blood starts flowing through the new kidney. The doctor will attach the new kidney’s ureter to the patient’s bladder for facilitating normal urination.

The doctors usually choose to leave the original kidneys inside the patient’s body unless they cause any problems.

After care

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The patient will have to stay in the hospital at least for a week post surgery. Comparatively, kidneys donated by family members start working more quickly than those from unrelated or cadaver donors.

Post transplant, there will be regular evaluation on the performance of new kidneys. The patient should immediately inform the doctor in case there is any pain, swelling, and flu-like symptoms.

A complete recovery will almost take six months!

Risks of kidney transplant

Since kidney transplant is a major surgery, it involves a lot of risks including bleeding, blood clots, heart attack and stroke. 

However, the major risk of kidney transplantation is the possibility of the body rejecting the donor kidney. Studies suggest that 90 percent of the transplant recipients who receive their kidneys from living donors live for at least five years post surgery. And 82 percent of the patients who receive the organ from cadaver donors are also said to live for a minimum of five years post the surgery.

Weight gain, bone thinning, increased hair growth and acne are some of the common side effects of kidney transplantation surgery. 


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Check your knowledge

 Answer) A surgical procedure which is done to treat kidney failure is called kidney transplantation. 

 Answer) End-stage renal disease.

      Answer) Cadaver donor.

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