Kidney Transplant

With advances in kidney transplant methods and anti-rejection medications, a kidney transplant is considered the best way to treat kidney failure for many people. It can result in a quality of life similar to what you were experiencing before your kidneys began to fail.  If you’re healthy enough to be eligible for a transplant, your new kidney can last for many years.

Before you can be considered for a kidney transplant, you’ll need to undergo a very rigorous medical assessment, which can take up to a year to complete.  Your doctors will be trying to determine whether you’re healthy enough for the surgery and for the medications you’ll have to take afterward.  Whether you’re a good candidate for a transplant depends on a number of factors:

  • General health
  • History of heart disease
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Emotional or psychological factors
  • Evidence that you can and will follow your treatment plan

If you decide that you want a kidney transplant and your doctors say you’re eligible, your surgery will be scheduled when a donor kidney becomes available.  A donor kidney can come from someone who died suddenly, called a deceased donor, or from a family member, friend or stranger with a compatible kidney, called a living donor.

DECEASED DONATION

With deceased donation, a healthy kidney from someone who has died, often as the result of a sudden brain injury, is transplanted into your body. The length of time you will have to wait is hard to predict because it depends on how hard you are to match and how many kidneys become available. Transplant programs have a process in place to make sure that organs are fairly distributed, based on objective criteria like how close a match you are and the length of time you’ve been on the waiting list.

LIVING DONATION

A donated kidney from someone who is still living tends to last a little longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.  This is because the kidney is healthier, and it’s likely to be a better genetic match to you.  Your doctors will also be able to schedule the surgery for a time when you and your donor are at your healthiest. If someone you know is willing to donate a kidney but isn’t a match for you, they may be able to take part in paired donation.  In that case their kidney would go to another kidney transplant patient, and that person’s living donor would donate their kidney to you.  The national Kidney Paired Donation Program is operated by Canadian Blood Services together with Canada’s various living donation and kidney transplant programs.

During your kidney transplant surgery, your doctors will place the healthy kidney in your lower abdomen and connect it to your bladder and blood vessels.  Your existing kidneys are usually left where they are unless there’s a medical reason to remove them.  Your newly transplanted kidney may start working right away, or it may take a few weeks.  If it does take some time, you may need to have dialysis while you wait.  In either case, you’ll have tests afterward to make sure that your body isn’t rejecting the kidney, and you’ll need to take anti-rejection medication for as long as the kidney is working.

After you’ve recovered from your surgery, you’ll need to take your anti-rejection medication exactly as prescribed, get plenty of rest, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.