Kidney transplant


Kidney transplantation is a surgical procedure to remove a healthy, functioning kidney from a living or brain-dead donor and implant it into a patient with nonfunctioning kidneys.


Kidney transplantation is performed on patients with chronic kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD occurs when a disease, disorder, or congenital condition damages the kidneys so that they are no longer capable of adequately removing fluids and wastes from the body or of maintaining the proper level of certain kidney-regulated chemicals in the bloodstream. Without long-term dialysis or a kidney transplant, ESRD is fatal.


Diabetes mellitus is the leading single cause of ESRD. According to the 2002 Annual Data Report of the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), 42% of non-Hispanic dialysis patients in the United States have ESRD caused by diabetes. People of Native American and Hispanic descent are at an elevated risk for both kidney disease and diabetes.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the second leading cause of ESRD in adults, accounting for 25.5% of the patient population, followed by glomerulonephritis (8.4%). African Americans are more likely to develop hypertension-related ESRD than Caucasians and Hispanics.

Among children and young adults under 20 on dialysis, glomerulonephritis is the leading cause of ESRD

For a kidney transplant, an incision is made in the lower abdomen (A). The donor kidney is connected to the patient's blood supply lower in the abdomen than the native kidneys, which are usually left in place (B). A transplanted ureter connects the donor kidney to the patient's bladder (C). (Illustration by GGS Inc.)
For a kidney transplant, an incision is made in the lower abdomen (A). The donor kidney is connected to the patient's blood supply lower in the abdomen than the native kidneys, which are usually left in place (B). A transplanted ureter connects the donor kidney to the patient's bladder (C). (
Illustration by GGS Inc.
(31%), and hereditary, cystic, and congenital diseases account for 37%. According to USRDS, the average waiting period for a kidney transplant for patients under age 20 is 10 months, compared to the adult wait of approximately two years.


Kidney transplantation involves surgically attaching a functioning kidney, or graft, from a brain-dead organ donor (a cadaver transplant) or from a living donor to a patient with ESRD. Living donors may be related or unrelated to the patient, but a related donor has a better chance of having a kidney that is a stronger biological match for the patient.

Open nephrectomy

The surgical procedure to remove a kidney from a living donor is called a nephrectomy . In a traditional, open nephrectomy, the kidney donor is administered general anesthesia and a 6–10-in (15.2–25.4-cm) incision through several layers of muscle is made on the side or front of the abdomen. The blood vessels connecting the kidney to the donor are cut and clamped, and the ureter is also cut and clamped between the bladder and kidney. The kidney and an attached section of ureter are removed from the donor. The vessels and ureter in the donor are then tied off and the incision is sutured together again. A similar procedure is used to harvest cadaver kidneys, although both kidneys are typically removed at once, and blood and cell samples for tissue typing are also taken.

Laparoscopic nephrectomy

Laparoscopic nephrectomy is a form of minimally invasive surgery using instruments on long, narrow rods to view, cut, and remove the donor kidney. The surgeon views the kidney and surrounding tissue with a flexible videoscope. The videoscope and surgical instruments are maneuvered through four small incisions in the abdomen, and carbon dioxide is pumped into the abdominal cavity to inflate it for an improved visualization of the kidney. Once the kidney is freed, it is secured in a bag and pulled through a fifth incision, approximately 3 in (7.6 cm) wide, in the front of the abdominal wall below the navel. Although this surgical technique takes slightly longer than an open nephrectomy, studies have shown that it promotes a faster recovery time, shorter hospital stays, and less postoperative pain for kidney donors.

A modified laparoscopic technique called hand-assisted laparoscopic nephrectomy may also be used to remove the kidney. In the hand-assisted surgery, a small incision of 3–5 in (7.6–12.7 cm) is made in the patient's abdomen. The incision allows the surgeon to place his hand in the abdominal cavity using a special surgical glove that also maintains a seal for the inflation of the abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide. The technique gives the surgeon the benefit of using his or her hands to feel the kidney and related structures. The kidney is then removed through the incision by hand instead of with a bag.

Once removed, kidneys from live donors and cadavers are placed on ice and flushed with a cold preservative solution. The kidney can be preserved in this solution for 24–48 hours until the transplant takes place. The sooner the transplant takes place after harvesting the kidney, the better the chances are for proper functioning.

Kidney transplant

During the transplant operation, the kidney recipient is typically under general anesthesia and administered antibiotics to prevent possible infection. A catheter is placed in the bladder before surgery begins. An incision is made in the flank of the patient, and the surgeon implants the kidney above the pelvic bone and below the existing, non-functioning kidney by suturing the kidney artery and vein to the patient's iliac artery and vein. The ureter of the new kidney is attached directly to the kidney recipient's bladder. Once the new kidney is attached, the patient's existing, diseased kidneys may or may not be removed, depending on the circumstances surrounding the kidney failure. Barring any complications, the transplant operation takes about three to four hours.

Since 1973, Medicare has picked up 80% of ESRD treatment costs, including the costs of transplantation for both the kidney donor and the recipient. Medicare also covers 80% of immunosuppressive medication costs for up to three years. To qualify for Medicare ESRD benefits, a patient must be insured or eligible for benefits under Social Security, or be a spouse or child of an eligible American. Private insurance and state Medicaid programs often cover the remaining 20% of treatment costs.

Patients with a history of heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or hepatitis may not be suitable candidates for receiving a kidney transplant.


Patients with chronic renal disease who need a transplant and do not have a living donor registered with United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to be placed on a waiting list for a cadaver kidney transplant. UNOS is a non-profit organization that is under contract with the federal government to administer the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) and the national Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).

Kidney allocation is based on a mathematical formula that awards points for factors that can affect a successful transplant, such as time spent on the transplant list, the patient's health status, and age. The most important part of the equation is that the kidney be compatible with the patient's body. A human kidney has a set of six antigens, substances that stimulate the production of antibodies. (Antibodies then attach to cells they recognize as foreign and attack them.) Donors are tissue matched for 0–6 of the antigens, and compatibility is determined by the number and strength of those matched pairs. Blood type matching is also important. Patients with a living donor who is a close relative have the best chance of a close match.

Before being placed on the transplant list, potential kidney recipients must undergo a comprehensive physical evaluation. In addition to the compatibility testing, radiological tests, urine tests, and a psychological evaluation will be performed. A panel of reactive antibody (PRA) is performed by mixing the patient's serum (white blood cells) with serum from a panel of 60 randomly selected donors. The patient's PRA sensitivity is determined by how many of these random samples his or her serum reacts with; for example, a reaction to the antibodies of six of the samples would mean a PRA of 10%. High reactivity (also called sensitization) means that the recipient would likely reject a transplant from the donor. The more reactions, the higher the PRA and the lower the chances of an overall match from the general population. Patients with a high PRA face a much longer waiting period for a suitable kidney match.

Potential living kidney donors also undergo a complete medical history and physical examination to evaluate their suitability for donation. Extensive blood tests are performed on both donor and recipient. The blood samples are used to tissue type for antigen matches, and confirm that blood types are compatible. A PRA is performed to ensure that the recipient antibodies will not have a negative reaction to the donor antigens. If a reaction does occur, there are some treatment protocols that can be attempted to reduce reactivity, including immunosuppresant drugs and plasmapheresis (a blood filtration therapy).

The donor's kidney function will be evaluated with a urine test as well. In some cases, a special dye that shows up on x rays is injected into an artery, and x rays are taken to show the blood supply of the donor kidney (a procedure called an arteriogram).

Once compatibility is confirmed and the physical preparations for kidney transplantation are complete, both donor and recipient may undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation to ensure that they are emotionally prepared for the transplant procedure and aftercare regimen.


A typical hospital stay for a transplant recipient is about five days. Both kidney donors and recipients will experience some discomfort in the area of the incision after surgery. Pain relievers are administered following the transplant operation. Patients may also experience numbness, caused by severed nerves, near or on the incision.

A regimen of immunosuppressive, or anti-rejection, medication is prescribed to prevent the body's immune system from rejecting the new kidney. Common immunosuppressants include cyclosporine, prednisone, tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, sirolimus, baxsiliximab, daclizumab, and azathioprine. The kidney recipient will be required to take a course of immunosuppressant drugs for the lifespan of the new kidney. Intravenous antibodies may also be administered after transplant surgery and during rejection episodes.

Because the patient's immune system is suppressed, he or she is at an increased risk for infection. The incision area should be kept clean, and the transplant recipient should avoid contact with people who have colds, viruses, or similar illnesses. If the patient has pets, he or she should not handle animal waste. The transplant team will provide detailed instructions on what should be avoided post-transplant. After recovery, the patient will still have to be vigilant about exposure to viruses and other environmental dangers.

Transplant recipients may need to adjust their dietary habits. Certain immunosuppressive medications cause increased appetite or sodium and protein retention, and the patient may have to adjust his or her intake of calories, salt, and protein to compensate.


As with any surgical procedure, the kidney transplantation procedure carries some risk for both a living donor and a graft recipient. Possible complications include infection and bleeding (hemorrhage). A lymphocele, a pool of lymphatic fluid around the kidney that is generated by lymphatic vessels damaged in surgery, occurs in up to 20% of transplant patients and can obstruct urine flow and/or blood flow to the kidney if not diagnosed and drained promptly. Less common is a urine leak outside of the bladder, which occurs in approximately 3% of kidney transplants when the ureter suffers damage during the procedure. This problem is usually correctable with follow-up surgery.

A transplanted kidney may be rejected by the patient. Rejection occurs when the patient's immune system recognizes the new kidney as a foreign body and attacks the kidney. It may occur soon after transplantation, or several months or years after the procedure has taken place. Rejection episodes are not uncommon in the first weeks after transplantation surgery, and are treated with high-dose injections of immunosuppressant drugs. If a rejection episode cannot be reversed and kidney failure continues, the patient will typically go back on dialysis. Another transplant procedure can be attempted at a later date if another kidney becomes available.

The biggest risk to the recovering transplant recipient is not from the operation or the kidney itself, but from the immunosuppressive medication he or she must take. Because these drugs suppress the immune system, the patient is susceptible to infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and varicella (chickenpox). Other medications that fight viral and bacterial infections can offset this risk to a degree. The immunosuppressants can also cause a host of possible side effects, from high blood pressure to osteoporosis. Prescription and dosage adjustments can lessen side effects for some patients.

Normal results

The new kidney may start functioning immediately, or may take several weeks to begin producing urine. Living donor kidneys are more likely to begin functioning earlier than cadaver kidneys, which frequently suffer some reversible damage during the kidney transplant and storage procedure. Patients may have to undergo dialysis for several weeks while their new kidney establishes an acceptable level of functioning.

Studies have shown that after they recover from surgery, kidney donors typically have no long-term complications from the loss of one kidney, and their remaining kidney will increase its functioning to compensate for the loss of the other.

Morbidity and mortality rates

Survival rates for patients undergoing kidney transplants are 95–96% one year post-transplant, and 91% three years after transplant. More than 2,900 patients on the transplant waiting list died in 2001. The success of a kidney transplant graft depends on the strength of the match between donor and recipient and the source of the kidney. According to the OPTN 2002 annual report, cadaver kidneys have a five-year survival rate of 63%, compared to a 76% survival rate for living donor kidneys. However, there have been cases of cadaver and living, related donor kidneys functioning well for over 25 years. In addition, advances in transplantation over the past decade have decreased the rate of graft failure; the USRDS reports that graft failure dropped by 23% in the years 1998–2000 compared to failures occurring between 1994 and 1997.


Patients who develop chronic kidney failure must either go on dialysis treatment or receive a kidney transplant to survive.



Cameron, J. S. Kidney Failure: The Facts. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Finn, Robert, ed., et al. Organ Transplants: Making the Most of Your Gift of Life. Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly Publishing, 2000.

Mitch, William, and Saulo Klahr, eds. Handbook of Nutrition and the Kidney, 4th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 2002.

Parker, James, and Philip Parker, eds. The 2002 Official Patient Sourcebook on Kidney Failure. San Diego: Icon Health Publications, 2002.

University Renal Research and Education Associates (URREA); United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). 2002 Annual Report of the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients: Transplant Data 1992–2001. Rockville, MD: HHS/HRSA/OSP/DOT, 2003. .

U.S. Renal Data System. USRDS 2002 Annual Data Report. Bethesda, MD: The National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2003.


Waller, J. R., et al. "Living Kidney Donation: A Comparison of Laparoscopic and Conventional Open Operations." Postgraduate Medicine Journal 78, no. 917 (March 2002): 153.


American Association of Kidney Patients. 3505 E. Frontage Rd., Suite 315, Tampa, FL 33607. (800) 749-2257. .

American Kidney Fund (AKF). Suite 1010, 6110 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852. (800) 638-8299. .

National Kidney Foundation. 30 East 33rd St., Suite 1100, New York, NY 10016. (800) 622-9010. .

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). 700 North 4th St., Richmond, VA 23219. (888) 894-6361. .

United States Renal Data System (USRDS). USRDS Coordinating Center, 914 S. 8th St., Suite D-206, Minneapolis, MN 55404. (612) 347-7776. .


Infant Kidney Transplantation. Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. 725 Welch Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304. (650) 497-8000. .

A Patient's Guide to Kidney Transplant Surgery. University of Southern California Kidney Transplant Program. .

Paula Anne Ford-Martin


A kidney transplant is performed by a transplant surgeon in one of more than 200 UNOS-approved hospitals nationwide. If the patient has no living donor, he or she must go through an evaluation procedure to get on the UNOS national waiting list and the UNOS Organ Center's UNet database.


User Contributions:

Delores J. Kemen
I have a question. My daughter who has been diabetic for 40 years just had a kidney(live donor) and pancreas transplant.This was 4 months ago. She's not supposed to drink but has psychological problems and has started drinking. I know what the outcome is but what to watch for. Please advise. Thanks
Ray Dawes
To plan for life after a kidney transplant, I need to know what to expect regarding the average monthly costs of medications needed after a kidney transplant. Do you have a reference for that information?
Pratik Mehta
The above article was very nice and was pretty infornative. can u please give more article on kidney as my mom has to go for a Dialysis Surgery.
if a patient after transplant is doing good but the kidney donar is not related one, how long a recieptient is secure
louise forster
I would like to have some extra information on after care.
I ahd a kidney Transplant about 5 years ago, but now i work in a cold warehouse is there any reasons why i can not work in a cold warehouse or is it ok to work in those conditions.
I would appreciate a quick response.
Thank you
hello.i undergoes a kidney transplant operatoion a 10 months iwant to know that i can drive a two and four wheeler and can i done some hard work,please suggest me.
Lawrence Keane
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am a young man of 30years of age. and have been diagnose with chronic kidney disease. Please I do not have money for the dialysis or the transplanting.what should I do to extend my life, can reduction of salt,protein and others help? also i do have a many brothers can it be that i might have a match? Please do me a favor and advise me on what to do. hope to hear from you soon.
Jack Ross
I am registered to receive a kidney transplant at UCSF and am on the National Transplant List. I do not have a donor. How do I register at other centers where the list is shorter. Otherwise, I have been told there is a 4 to 6-yr waitlist.
Could you please send me more information on any complications for a live donor,as I am considering
donating a kidney ,for my brother could give as much information for me as well as for him regarding kidney donation/transplant,
thanking you
Christine Mufford
I recieved kidney transplant in July of 95 from my sister. We were a good match. Since then I have developed bad hip pain in both hips. Now I am also having pain in the calves of my legs down to ankles,they hurt & I never know when the pain is going to come on. Can I get some input on all of this? One more thing I had an x-ray done on July 3,2010 on right hip & doctor said it was arthritis,but why so much other pain in other places? Please help me?
i am a kidney donor to mr real sister in London. i am happy to donate as she is getting improve after transplant of kidney. i got some pain after surgery for 2 days, but with the passage of time and light walk i got decrease in pain. After one week of operation i tried to avoid taking pain killer medicine like paracetamol. Now after 3 weeks i am quite better and eating/drinking like normal people but has not joined professional duty and taking rest and doing walk.
Abdul Qadeer Shami
i am getting a kidney from my mum and are more wanting to know what she will go through she is 60 and quiet active.
sandra noble
I have found this information very helpful and easy to understand, I am waiting for test to be started which hopefully will allow me to be a live doner for my son.
how many tested to kidney transplant what time and plz help me my wife is only 27
what happens if you catch a cold right before the surgery. my husband is 31 years old and we are scheduled to operate on sunday and today is tuesday and he woke up with a sore throat.

i would also like to know how long should he not meet with people after the transplant
I like this article. I am kidney transplant recipient,undergone for transplant before 1 year and 2 months. My S. Crea. level was 1.14 on 7/5/11 last. I want to know is there any group of kidney recipients online preferably Indian that we can share our experiences, discuss about precautions, drugs and we can record our follow up reports. Pls suggest me on my email if 1.
my dad had a kidney transplant in january 2010, his creatine numbers today are 2.05, he was just diagnosed with high cholestoral and having high uric acid numbers. can you please tell me what this might mean for him?
Hi before 1 month i had kidney transplant,how many days get to recover,and how many days take to precaution
i would also like to know how long should he not meet with people after the transplant

Hi before 1 month i had kidney transplant,how many days get to recover,and how many days take to precaution
i would also like to know how long should he not meet with people after the transplant

The article reveals that kidney recipients should have a history of hepatitis. Most patient undergo dialysis before transplantation which has chances to acquire HCV. My younger bnrother age 37,has suffered from Kidneys failure.He is on dialysis and later diagnosed with HCV. He takes interferon injection and doctor is confident that the infection will perish.After the test comes negative,we will go for a transplant.Kindly elaborate ,is he not be able to be transplanted with kidney ?
manmohan singh
my bro got renal transplant 5month ago,but some times his creatnine goes up then down,his blood pressure still remains 140/90ave. while having bp medician,just want to know how long time is take to come in normal condition.
I Wwould like to know about the chances of second time kidney transplantation if the creatinine and uric acid level is high.
This article is very informative.
My brother will undergo kidney transplant & he will receive a kidney from our mother after 15 days.
I would like to know more about what precautions we should take before & after the surgery.
Kindly advise us regarding life long precautions donor & receiver will have to take.
Also please inform me if smoking can cause any infection to the receiver ? My brother happens to be a chronic smoker.
Bonnie Lokken
My Son who is 53 is on a Kidney transplant list in the state of Washington. He has never asked a family member to consider being a kidney donor. I would be willing to donate a kidney. I am close to 73 and am in good health , however I have been on blood pressure medication for over 20 years and am now taking medication for high cholesterol, would I be considered a candidate to be a donor of a kidney?
currently I am in a relationship with a kidney recipient of 4 years from a non-living donor who is doing well he is 53 years of age, here's my question: what is the most recent information on survival rates on recipients in his age group, and we want to get married and how will this affect our sex life, are there any limitations or cautions we should take?
cindi miller
I am stage 4 kidney disease, I have hepatitis B my hepatologist said I can get a cadaver kidney, someone who had hepatitis B for a transplant. I have yet to get on the list or any list. Could you help me with this. I would like to go to the Univeresity Of Virgina for mu surgery. My doctor has to call and put me on the list. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Sincerely, Cindi Miller
Are these readers questions answered? I would be interested in the answers to some as I have ESRD..
martin vera
To plan for life after a kidney transplant, I need to know what to expect regarding the average monthly costs of medications needed after a kidney transplant. Do you have a reference for that information?
I would like to know more about what precautions we should take before & after the surgery.
Kindly advise us regarding life long precautions donor & receiver will have to take.
i am getting a kidney from my mum and are more wanting to know what she will go through she is 40 and quiet active
After surgery how long the healing process the full recovery how long?
Hello I just recieved my transplant 10/27/14 i'm in my 6th week and still experiencing some pain, burning and itching when I walk... I want to know is this normal? Has anyone else experienced this? I thought I would be feeling somewhat better by now.
I am a kidney transplant recepient because of an inherited disease Polycystic Kidney Disease better known as PKD. I received a living donor kidney on March 4, 2011. I can only say Praise God for people willing to be organ donors. I actually know my donor. She is a friend fyom high school that I've known for 30 something years! She said the recovery process was somewhat uncomfortable but would do it again in a heartbeat :)
My recovery was a little more complicated but my kidney function was at 5% before my surgery (never did go on dialysis) and was very sick, so I'm just saying that your recovery time and process depends on your over all health for the recepient AND the donor!
Good luck to you all and may God bless you!
This Monday I will be making my annual visit to my transplant doctor. I make several visits a year to the site of my transplant, New York Presbyterian Hospital, but the doctor who performed the transplant magic is an annual affair. He is one of two people to whom I owe my life. The other is the donor, my brother Eddie. It's been two years, four months since the procedure and me (and, more importantly) my brother are doing fine. When thinking about the surgery I consider it amazing that anyone is capable of performing the procedure. You've got watchmakers and sculptors and scores of jobs that require amazingly precise work, but someone who can reach into a person's body (or, in the case of a transplant) two bodies and pull this off never fails to astonish me. I remain alive. And grateful.
lauren g
hi silly question to most but how long after a kidney transplant should i wait before getting breast implants, ive previously had a kidney transplant before but never needed to ask this question when i was 15... thanks
My 35 year old son had kidney transplant surgery 2 months ago (was on dialysis for 11 years) and has had many complications since day one. He had to have the kidney taken out and have a vein in his leg unblocked and the kidney transplanted again. His heart stopped for 9 minutes during the second procedure. He just got out of the hospital and is having his 3 times a week blood work, however, now he is falling down two or three times a day. He gets no warning from it, and is unable to prevent the falls. What could be the cause of his falling?
Approximately how long should an individual wait after receiving a kidney transplant before having an additional surgery,just looking for a general time frame. I know people have multiple surgeries over short periods of time in emergency situations but I'd think the longer it could be put off the better I'm guessing...
Urgent question - I need to know ASAP so any advice gratefully received. If the donor has died of a heart attack and was later found to have had a chest infection, does this affect the kidney's ability to function?
My elder brother age is 37 years. and he has suffered the last 10 years of kidney problem now we had started the Dialysis. so what is the better suggestion for his life...
mohit jaiswal
How many year a person stay alive after kidney disease. My friend's going for transplant. She is 22 year old.
mohit jaiswal
Tell me the about the life style after kidney transplant of a person who is 22 year old
Ellen orth
Hello. I received my kidney transplant in November 2015. I am blessed and very grateful but have so many side effects still. I've lost hair, developed diabetes, have terrible vision loss, nUseated a lot, leg swelling and constant pain where the kidney is. My general dr said that he has 6 other transplant folks - none of which have any pain / all are obese. I am thin and was feeling great before. I am and was very active in working, hilking and swimming. When I received my kidney, the surgeon said "oh - she is way too small for this extra large kidney." I've experienced much loss of self-esteem because it sticks out so much. Dr says to just accept everything. I trying but I cry often - still work full time, and hike and started back at the pool. I just don't understand. University hospital is in trust worthy as they have given me wrong advice about blood work 2 times and almost had me stop immuno drugs. Both times they had mixed my blood up with someone else's. They are so unprofessional about everything. Help
Hi I'm Sumit my mom is a kidney patient nd she is 54 year old . She's creatinine level is 2.13 nd urea is 69 pls guide us that what can I do
My younger brother is suffering from renel failure. He is 30 years. His creatinine is 24.Doctors prescribed him for dialysis. Will he be recovered. What would be his longevity. Please reply as early as possible.
Dr.John Rooney
Welcome to Apollo Hospital, Specialist hospital that buy kidney.

Do you wish to sell your kidney in exchange of money? If yes.

Then contact Dr John Rooney today to get a reliable and good transaction for good money.


call me @ +918904592049
Derrick chambers
What are the required procedures to have a kidney transplant? Meaning blood screens. As well as colon osterhys. Medical history requirements and more. For prescreening Ida transplant.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: