What is a kidney transplant, and how does it work?

Medpho Team May 9, 2023

A kidney transplant, also called a renal transplant, is a surgical process to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy one. It can be obtained from a donor, either a living relative or someone who recently died.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs positioned directly below the rib cage on each side of the spine, and each one is around the size of a fist. It performs vital functions like filtering and eliminating waste, minerals, and moisture from the bloodstream.

When your kidneys get damaged, fluid and waste build up in your body, elevating your blood pressure and leading to renal failure (end-stage kidney disease). When the kidneys have lost around 90% of their ability to operate normally, it is called end-stage renal disease.

This blog covers all the information on kidney transplants.

What is a kidney transplant?

Kidney transplantation is a procedure wherein a diseased kidney is replaced with a healthy donor kidney. The kidney might come from either a deceased or a living donor.

One of your kidneys could be donated by a family member or someone else who is a suitable match. This type of transplant procedure is called a living transplant, and a person can live a healthy life with just one healthy kidney.

The majority of people who have a kidney transplant only get just one. They may receive two kidneys from a deceased donor in highly unusual circumstances. The dysfunctional kidneys are usually left in place. The transplanted kidney is implanted in the lower abdomen on the front side of the body.

Who would require a kidney transplant?

Most people who need a kidney transplant, regardless of their age, can get one if they meet the following criteria:

  • They're healthy enough to withstand surgery's effects.
  • The transplant has a good probability of succeeding.
  • The person is willing to follow the prescribed post-transplant therapies, such as immunosuppressive medication and regular follow-up checkups.

There are various reasons why a transplant may not be safe or successful, including an ongoing infection (which must be treated first), severe heart problems, cancer that has spread to other parts of your body, or AIDS.

What are the risks & complications of a kidney transplant?

What are the risks & complications of a kidney transplant?

As with any transplant procedure, risks and complications can occur. Below are the following risks and complications:

Kidney Transplant Risks

Transplantation of the kidneys can benefit those with advanced kidney disease and kidney failure, but it is not a cure. After a kidney transplant, some types of kidney disease may return.

The risks of a kidney transplant include those associated with the surgery itself, donor organ rejection, and the side effects of medications used to prevent your body from rejecting the supplied kidney (anti-rejection or immunosuppressants).

Deciding whether or not a kidney transplant is right for you is a personal one that entails careful consideration of the potential risks and advantages. Consult with friends, family, and other trustworthy advisors while you decide.

Kidney Transplant Complications

Kidney transplant surgery is associated with many complications, including:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Urinary leakage or blockage in the ureter
  • Rejection of the donated kidney
  • Heart attack, stroke
  • Blockage of the new kidney's blood vessels

If you are experiencing any above-mentioned complications. Medpho on #BasEkCall at 88569-88569 for a Free teleconsultation with our expert Doctors.

Side effects of anti-rejection medication

After a kidney transplant, you'll take medications to keep your body from rejecting the donated kidney. The following are some of the possible side effects of these medications:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive hair loss or hair growth
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning) and osteonecrosis (bone damage)

Other possible side effects include:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Edema (Puffiness)
  • Weight gain
  • Acne

How do I prepare for kidney transplantation?

A surgical team carries out the evaluation process for a kidney.

The evaluation includes:

Examining your mental health: Stress, financial concerns, and family or significant other support are all evaluated as psychological and social issues related to organ transplantation. These complications can significantly impact the outcome of a transplant, and a living donor is subjected to the same evaluation.

Blood tests: Blood tests assist in finding a suitable donor match, determining your priority on the donor list, and ensuring that the donor organ is not rejected.

Diagnostic tests: It may be necessary to conduct diagnostic tests to assess the condition of your kidneys and your general health. X-rays, ultrasounds, kidney biopsies, and dental checkups are examples of these tests. A Pap test, gynecological assessment, and mammography are all options for women.

To determine your eligibility for kidney transplantation, the transplant team will consider all the information gathered from interviews, medical history, physical exam, and tests.

Before the transplant, the following steps will take place:

  • You will receive an explanation of the surgery from your transplant team. You will have the opportunity to ask anything regarding surgery.
  • You will be requested to sign a consent form permitting the surgery to occur. If something is unclear, read the form carefully and ask questions.
  • You would receive dialysis before the procedure if you were on regular dialysis before the treatment.
  • If you have a scheduled living transplant, fast for 8 hours before the operation, usually after midnight. If you have a cadaver organ transplant, you should begin fasting when you are informed that a kidney has become available.
  • Before the treatment, you may be given a sedative to help you relax.
  • Your transplant team may require additional preparation based on your medical condition

What is the kidney transplant procedure?

What is the kidney transplant procedure?

A kidney transplant necessitates a stay in the hospital. Methods may vary depending on your situation and your healthcare practitioner's procedures.

In general, a kidney transplant follows this process:

  • You will remove your clothes and change into a hospital gown.
  • In your arm or hand, an intravenous line will be started. More catheters may be inserted into your neck and wrist to monitor your heart and blood pressure and collect blood samples. Catheters can also be inserted under the collarbone and groin blood veins.
  • If the surgical site has too much hair, it may be shaved.
  • In your bladder, a urinary catheter will be inserted.
  • You will be lying flat on your back on the operating table.
  • Under general anesthesia, your kidney transplant procedure will be performed while asleep. A tube will be implanted into your lungs through your mouth. The tube will be connected to a ventilator during the process, which will breathe for you.
  • The anesthesiologist will keep a close eye on your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure.
  • To clean the skin around the surgical site, an antiseptic solution will be applied.
  • The healthcare professional will make a long incision on one side of the lower abdomen. Before implanting the donated kidney, the healthcare expert will visually evaluate it.
  • The donor kidney will be implanted into the patient's belly. A right donor kidney will be inserted on the left side, whereas a left donor kidney will be implanted on the right side. It makes it possible to link your bladder to your ureter with ease.
  • The donor kidney's renal artery and vein will be stitched to the external iliac artery and vein.
  • Blood flow through these vessels will be monitored for bleeding at the suture lines after the attached artery and vein.
  • Your bladder will be linked to the donor ureter (the tube drains kidney urine).
  • Stitches or surgical staples will be used to close the incision.
  • To minimize swelling, a drain may be inserted on the incision site.
  • A sterile dressing or bandage will be applied.


A kidney transplant is an operation that transplants your damaged kidney with a healthy one. You no longer require dialysis since the transplanted kidney takes up the work of the two failing kidneys.

If you underwent a kidney transplant, you would need to take medications for the rest of your life to avoid your body rejecting the new kidney.

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