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Kidney Transplant: Your Questions, Answered

A kidney transplant is a treatment option for kidney failure. Transplants from deceased or living donors allow people to live for years upon a kidney failure diagnosis.

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What is a Kidney Transplant?

When you have a kidney transplant, doctors place a healthy donor kidney in your body. A healthy kidney can come from a deceased organ donor or a living donor who will continue living normally with just one kidney.

If your kidney disease is progressing or you are in the later stages of the disease, you should discuss a transplant with your doctor. A transplant makes it possible for you to live longer, enjoying a life similar to how it was before kidney disease. But as with any surgery, a kidney transplant has risks. And it’s important to note there’s a limited supply of donated kidneys in the United States.

  • More than 38 million Americans have CKD97,364Number of patients on the kidney transplant waitlist in October 2022
  • 90% People with CKD who don’t know it51.8%Percentage of patients on the waitlist who received a kidney transplant in 5 years
  • Coordinate with Providers239,413Number of patients with a functioning kidney transplant at the end of 2019

Am I Eligible for a Kidney Transplant?

Adults and children with kidney failure may be eligible for transplants. The first step is an evaluation at a kidney transplant center. The medical evaluation will determine if you’re healthy enough for the transplant. If so, the center will add you to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) kidney donation waiting list for your geographic area.

On average, people wait three to five years, and can sometimes wait up to 10 years, before a kidney becomes available. That’s why it’s a good idea to get evaluated for a transplant soon after learning you have chronic kidney disease. In some cases, you can have a preemptive (early) transplant, which occurs before you need to start dialysis. Research shows this approach can result in better long-term health outcomes.

How are People Matched to Donated Kidneys?

UNOS manages organ transplant waiting lists and ensures deceased donor organs are distributed fairly. For kidney patients, blood type, antibody matching, time with kidney failure and other factors determine who gets a new kidney and when. Once you go on the list, you’ll have regular blood tests to ensure the transplant center always has an accurate picture of your health.

Live kidney donation is a solution for some people with chronic kidney disease. With this option, you don’t have to wait on the UNOS waiting list. Instead, a blood relative, spouse, friend or even a stranger donates one of their kidneys to you. Doctors will evaluate the donor to ensure they are healthy enough for surgery. UNOS will not secure a living donor for you. You’ll need to discuss your needs with your friends and loved ones, and Strive can help you prepare for these discussions. This is part of the shared decision-making process you’ll have with your Strive team and your family. The staff at your transplant center may also help secure a match.

Is Kidney Transplant Surgery Right for You?

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Joining a kidney transplant waiting list is a significant milestone. You’ll likely have many questions about the process and what you can expect. Strive Health is here to help.

We’ll be with you every step of the way as you weigh your options and make decisions about your health. You’ll know you have a trusted partner standing by your side during every stage of chronic kidney disease.

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Dedicated Caregivers

Kidney Heroes®, including nurse practitioners, dietitians, care coordinators and licensed clinical social workers, answer your questions and provide support outside doctor’s visits.

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Support During Dialysis

After starting dialysis, our team continues to provide in-person and virtual wellness checks to help you stay in good health and out of the hospital.

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Comprehensive Education

Easy-to-understand educational materials help you understand the disease process and stay in control of your CKD.

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What Happens During Kidney Transplant Surgery?

Once you’re matched with a deceased donor kidney, surgery must happen quickly. The donated organ will be transported to a hospital-based transplant center where you’ll have surgery. A surgeon places the donated organ just below the rib cage, alongside your spine. They then connect the kidney to your bladder and blood vessels. The surgery takes about four hours, and you’ll spend about a week in the hospital.

What Happens During Kidney Transplant Surgery?

What Can I Expect After Surgery?

Organs from deceased donors take longer to start working than living donor organs. Your doctor will order blood tests to see if your new kidney is working.

Regardless of the type of donation, you’ll need to take anti-rejection medication (also called immunosuppressant medications) for the rest of your life. This medication prevents your body from thinking the new kidney is a foreign body and attacking it like a virus or bacteria. You’ll need to strictly adhere to your medication schedule to keep your body from “rejecting” the new kidney.

You can expect frequent checkups and blood tests for the first few months after surgery to ensure your kidney and anti-rejection medicines are working. Over time, these tests can happen less frequently.

How Often Does Organ Rejection Occur?

Organ rejection is much less common than it used to be. For one, anti-rejection medications are more effective. And today, doctors monitor organ transplant patients very closely for early signs of rejection. Signs of rejection can include:

  • Decreased urination
  • Fevers
  • Pain over the kidney area
  • Swelling
  • Weight gain
How Often Does Organ Rejection Occur?
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A kidney transplant gives you a new lease on life. Strive Health is here to answer your questions and address your concerns about the kidney transplant process. Contact us to learn how we can help.