Frequently Asked Questions about Kidney Transplant

There is no kidding around with a kidney transplant, and to show the seriousness of the issue, here are some frequently asked questions about kidney transplantation courtesy of Discount Medical Supplies.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kidney Transplantation

1.       What is kidney transplantation?

This is a surgical procedure in which a patient’s kidneys are replaced with the kidney of a living or deceased donor.

2.       What do kidneys do?

These organs filter fluid, minerals, and waste from the blood. Additionally, the kidneys produce hormones that keep bones and blood healthy.

3.       Where are the kidneys?

This Internal Organs of The Human Body Paper Poster can help you find the location of the kidneys.

4.       What causes kidney failure?

  • Diabetes.
  • Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis (an inflammation and scarring of the small filters inside the kidneys (glomeruli).
  • Polycystic kidney disease.

5.       Are there alternatives to kidney transplantation?

Kidney disease may be managed with diet and medication, and by treating the underlying cause (see above). When all else fails, however, a kidney transplant is the best if not the only treatment option to save the patient’s life.

6.       When does kidney transplantation take place?

When the kidneys lose the ability to remove excess fluid and waste to the point that either a machine has to filter them out of the bloodstream (a process called dialysis) or else life-threatening levels will build up in the body (known as kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease). Kidney failure may also entail high blood pressure.

7.       When conditions prohibit kidney transplantation?

·         Tuberculosis, hepatitis, bone infections, and other infections.

  • Problems taking medications several times each day for life.
  • Heart, lung, or liver disease.
  • Other life-threatening diseases.
  • Recent history of cancer.
  • Smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, and other lifestyle behaviors.

8.       Who is involved in kidney transplantation?

·         A physician who determines that a patient needs a new kidney.

·         A nephrologist monitors all medical care before, during, and after the transplant.

·         A transplant surgeon who will actually transplant the new kidney.

·         A social worker helps the patient and his or her family identify and evaluate problems and needs related to kidney failure, and provide education, counseling regarding lifestyle changes, referrals to community agencies, and any other help needed to adjust to chronic illness.

·         A financial counselor can answer any questions about insurance coverage and Medicare benefits related to surgery and care.

·         A nutritionist will work closely with the patient and the doctor to determine the right diet after transplant surgery and make any necessary revisions.

·         A transplant coordinator will serve as the patient’s contact contact throughout the process.

9.       How to prepare for kidney transplantation?

  • Choose a transplant center

-         Learn how many and what kind of transplants the center performs a year.

-         Ask about the center's patient and kidney survival rates.

-         Consider additional services, such as coordinating support groups, assisting with travel arrangements, helping with local housing for the recovery period and offering referrals to other resources.

10.   What are the eligibility requirements for kidney transplantation?

The transplant center will take x-rays, blood samples, EKGs, and perform other tests to determine whether the patient is healthy enough to have surgery and tolerate lifelong post-transplant medications, has any medical conditions that would decrease transplant success, and is willing and able to take medications as prescribed and follow the suggestions of the healthcare team.

11.   How to find a donor?

A donor may be deceased or – since only one donated kidney can replace the original pair – living. In the latter case, the medical care team considers blood and tissue types and other factors. Relatives are usually the most fitting candidates, though a kidney from an unrelated donor may be compatible as well.


In the former case, the patient may wait for a kidney for years. Waiting lists for deceased-donor kidneys are long and growing because there is more demand for organs than there is supply.


A third alternative is to find a living donor whose blood and tissue are not compatible with patient A, and have them donate their kidney to patient B – who is compatible. Patient A would then receive a kidney from another patient’s donor – sort of a pay it forward scenario. 

12.   How long does a patient have to wait for a kidney?

In addition to the years that waiting for a deceased-donor kidney, the medical assessment at the transplant center may take weeks to months. In the case of living donors, the length of the wait depends mostly on the degree of matching between the patient and the donor. 

13.   What to do/not do while waiting for a kidney?

  • Follow the transplant team’s diet recommendations.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Keep weight in the range that has been recommended.
  • Follow any recommended exercise program.
  • Take all medicines as they have been prescribed.
  • Report any changes in medicines and any new or worsening medical problems to the transplant team.
  • Attend all regular doctor’s visits. Make sure the transplant team has the correct phone numbers so they can contact you immediately if a kidney becomes available.
  • Make sure that you can be contacted quickly and easily at all times.
  •  Let the transplant center know if you move or change telephone numbers.
  • Have everything ready in advance to go to the hospital.

14.   What are the advantages of a living-donor kidney over a deceased-donor kidney?

  • Patients who receive a kidney from a relative or friend don't have to wait until a kidney becomes available.
  • Living donation allows for improved preparation and for the surgery to be scheduled at a convenient time.
  • Kidneys from relatives are more likely to be good matches.
  • Kidneys from living donors don't have to be transported from one site to another, so the kidney is in better shape when transplanted.
  • Living donation helps people waiting for kidneys from deceased donors by shortening waiting lists.

15.   How does the kidney transplantation procedure work?

With a living donor, the surgery is scheduled in advance and both parties are operated on simultaneously and possibly in adjoining rooms. Conversely, a patient waiting for a deceased-donor organ must be ready to go to the hospital within 48 hours of a kidney becoming available – the time that the organ can be preserved in saline.

16.   What to expect during and after kidney transplantation?

During (patients are unaware of these as they are anesthetized)

·         The surgical team monitors heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure.

  • The surgeon makes an incision and places the new kidney in the lower abdomen.
  • The artery and vein of the new kidney are connected to the patient’s artery and vein.
  • Blood flows through the new organ.
  • The original kidneys are left in place unless they are causing complications like high blood pressure, kidney stones, pain or infection.
  • The blood vessels of the new kidney are attached to blood vessels in the lower part of the abdomen, just above one of the legs.
  • The new kidney's ureter is connected to the bladder.
  • Kidney transplant surgery usually lasts about 3-4 hours


·         The patient remains in the hospital for a few days to a week to be monitored.

·         Soreness or pain around the incision site.

·         A recovery period of about six months.

·         Frequent checkups for a few weeks after leaving the hospital.

·         Skin checkups with a dermatologist to screen for skin cancer.

·         Taking medications for life.

17.   What is the aftermath of successful kidney transplantation?

·         The new kidney will make urine like the old kidneys did when they were healthy.

·         The new kidney will filter the blood, so dialysis will no longer be required.

·         The patient will be able to drink more fluids and eat many fruits and vegetables that were off-limits when on hemodialysis.

·         Many patients enjoy increased stamina and energy.

18.   What does post-transplant care consist of?

·         Taking medications as prescribed

·         Following diet and exercise guidelines.

·         Keeping all appointments with the healthcare team.

·         Continuing involvement in healthy activities, such as relaxing and spending time with friends and relatives.

19.   What are the survival rates for kidney transplantation?

  • Approximately 98% of people who receive a living-donor kidney live for at least one year after surgery.
  • Approximately 90% live for at least 5 years.
  • Approximately 94% of adults who receive a deceased-donor kidney live for at least one year after surgery.
  • Approximately 82% live for at least 5 years.

20.   What are the potential complications of kidney transplantation?

  • Blood clots.
  • Bleeding.
  • Leaking from or blockage of the tube linking the kidney to the bladder
  • Infection.
  • Failure of the donated organ.
  • Rejection of the donated organ.
  • An infection or cancer can be transmitted with the donated organ.
  • Death.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.

21.   What is organ rejection?

The body’s immune system may send antibodies to attack what it may consider as a foreign entity.

22.   What can be done to prevent the body from rejecting the donated kidney?

A cross-match tests involving the patient’s and donor’s blood can be performed to forecast organ rejection. If the result of the test is negative and the transplant can proceed, the patient is prescribed medications called immunodepressants to help prevent rejection of the organ following the procedure.

23.   What are the possible side effects of anti-rejection drugs?

  • Acne
  • Osteoporosis. 
  • Osteonecrosis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Excessive hair growth or hair loss
  • Hypertension.
  • Hypercholesterolemia.
  • Increased risk of cancer, especially skin cancer and lymphoma.
  • Infection.
  • Edema.
  • Weight gain.

24.   What happens if the new kidney fails?

The patient can resume dialysis or consider the possibility of a second transplant. Refusing treatment is yet another alternative, which depends on the patient’s current health, ability to withstand surgery, and expectations for maintaining a certain quality of life.


Related: Early symptoms of chronic kidney disease