HomeOrgan TransplantUnderstanding Kidney Transplants

Understanding Kidney Transplants


Kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a healthy kidney from a (live or deceased) donor is placed into the body of an individual whose kidneys does not function properly.

What are Kidneys?

Kidneys are two bean-shaped (each about the size of a fist) organs placed on either side of the spine just underneath the rib cage. Their main function is to filter and remove excess and waste fluid from the blood. When they lose their filtering ability, high levels of fluid and waste accumulate in the body, leading to kidney failure (end-stage renal disease or end-stage kidney disease).

Most common causes of end stage kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis, an inflammation and eventual scarring of the tiny filters within the kidneys
  • Polycystic kidney disease

When is a Kidney Transplant required and how is it done?

When the kidneys perform only a fraction of the normal function, it is termed as ‘end-stage’ kidney disease. Patients with this stage of kidney failure either have to get the waste removed from their bloodstream through regular dialysis or undergo a kidney transplant. A kidney transplant is done by placing a kidney from a live or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys are not functioning properly.

Advantages of Kidney Transplant?

Kidney transplant, compared to dialysis, is associated with:

  • Lowering the risk of death
  • Lowering the cost of treatment
  • Freedom from regular dialysis
  • Few restrictions in diet
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Better quality of life

Types of Kidney Transplants are available?

  • Deceased-donor kidney transplant is a surgical procedure to give kidney failure patient a healthy kidney from a person who just died. However, to get kidney from a dead or deceased donor, the patient must be evaluated with the transplant team first.
  • Living-donor kidney transplant is a surgical procedure to give you kidney failure patient a healthy kidney from a person who is alive — a person with two healthy kidneys can choose to donate one.
  • Pre-emptive kidney transplant is getting transplantation before the beginning of dialysis. It is considered to be an ideal renal replacement therapy in acute kidney injury or advanced chronic kidney disease

The Kidney Transplant Team

Specialists from a variety of fields are needed to determine if a kidney transplant is appropriate. The team may include:

  • Urologist
  • Transplant surgeons
  • Transplant coordinator
  • Social worker to discuss personal information
  • Psychiatrist
  • Anesthesiologist

Kidney Transplant Surgery

A person who is the first relative of the patient (according to the THO – Transplantation of Human Organs – act) or has taken special permission from the government appointed authorization committee, can donate a kidney.

The donor can lead a normal and comfortable life without any lifestyle or diet changes, after donating a kidney. Laparoscopy is usually used to remove the donor kidney. Advantages of laparoscopy include less pain, shorter hospital stay, a more rapid return to normal activities and a smaller, less noticeable scar. For those who do not have a suitable donor, the patient awaiting a transplant goes on a kidney transplant waiting list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor.

During the transplant, the new kidney is placed in the lower abdomen. The blood vessels of the new kidney are attached to blood vessels in the lower part of the abdomen. The new kidney’s ureter is connected to the urinary bladder. A kidney transplant surgery usually lasts for about three to four hours. To prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney, medications to suppress the immune system should be taken lifelong.


Following a successful kidney transplant, the new kidney will start filtering the blood, so the patient will no longer need dialysis.

In order to prevent the rejection of donor kidney by the body, the patient will need medicines to suppress the immune system. The patient may have to take these drugs for the rest of his/her life. A medicines to suppress the immune system make the body more vulnerable to infection, the treating doctor may prescribe antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal medicines as well.

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