While kidney failure can leave a person with little or no life expectancy, kidney transplantation is an option for some people. To get a transplant, patients must be in good health and can undergo the surgery. Living or deceased organ donors are the most common sources of living kidney donors. If a person cannot get a living kidney, they can be a living relative or a stranger. In some cases, the patient may have to donate his/her own kidney to get the transplant.
After determining whether a person is a good candidate for a kidney transplant, a healthcare provider will schedule the procedure. The patient will be placed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision in the lower belly area and then insert the donor kidney. The blood vessels of the new kidney will be attached to the pelvic artery and bladder. Once the transplanted kidney is in place, the patient will be transferred to a recovery area in a hospital.
A patient’s blood type plays a major role in the risk of rejection. If the transplanted kidney comes from a related donor, the patient will have a reduced chance of rejection. Related kidney donors are also a good option. The transplanted kidney will be tested for HLA-related antibodies, a group of antigens on white blood cells that cause the body to react to foreign substances. The blood sample from the donor will be mixed with a small amount of the patient’s blood to see if antibodies form against the donor’s blood. If no antibodies are detected, the transplant will proceed.
A patient may need to change their diet after the transplant. However, there will be fewer restrictions on dietary intake after the transplant. Despite the new restrictions on diet, patients will still need to consult a nutritionist to determine which foods are best for them. It is important to understand the new diet before the transplant to avoid a high sugar or fat intake. In addition to following a healthy diet, a transplant recipient should also engage in physical activity to promote good health.
While a kidney transplant is a lifesaving procedure, patients should remain vigilant. After surgery, they need frequent follow-ups to ensure that the transplant is successful. Blood tests may be necessary several times a week for the first few weeks. They may also need to adjust their medications. For the first few weeks after the transplant, it is important to monitor any warning signs of rejection of the new kidney. Some patients experience flu-like symptoms and swelling.
Recovery from a kidney transplant takes approximately six months. The first three months after the transplant may require a stay in a hospital. After this time, they may need dialysis or other methods of filtering waste from the body until the new kidney is fully functioning. Rejection is uncommon right after the surgery, but it can take days or weeks to occur. While the transplant process may involve a risk of rejection, it is far less likely than in a deceased donor.