The first step is to determine if you are a suitable candidate for the procedure. During our very thorough evaluation process, your case will be assessed by our team over the course of several appointments.
- Early in the process a social worker meets with you to provide education and orientation and to discuss issues such as your support system. Our financial counselor also conducts a review of insurance benefits, Medicare eligibility and other issues.
- Next comes your visit with a transplant nephrologist (kidney doctor specializing in transplant) to identify the appropriate laboratory and diagnostic tests for you.
- Thorough lab tests are used to confirm immunity or non-exposure to various viruses and to determine compatibility between donor and recipient. (Thanks to modern immunosuppressive medications, even non-related people with basic compatibility can donate a kidney with a high chance of success.)
- The final step is examination and evaluation by a transplant surgeon, who checks for conditions that might influence the safety and success of the transplant.
- Once the transplant team is in agreement, surgery is scheduled if you have a living donor, or else you are placed on the national waiting list for a matched kidney from a deceased donor.
Surgery is scheduled if you are receiving a kidney from a living person. If you are receiving a deceased donor kidney surgery happens whenever a match is found. In either case your original kidneys are usually left in place, where they atrophy and shrink. The surgeon places the new kidney in the lower abdominal area on the right or left side.
With living donors, you and the donor are in adjoining operating rooms so that the donated kidney is out of a body for a minimum amount of time.
Expect to stay in the hospital approximately five days. During your hospital stay, you are closely monitored in the critical care unit for the first 24-48 hours after surgery, and then moved to a medical ward.
For the first few weeks after discharge you will return to the Transplant Clinic three times a week for follow-up care, then less often after that. We perform laboratory tests at every visit to monitor your kidney function and general medical status, with additional studies as needed.
The most critical issue for transplant recipients is learning about the medicines they must take every day for the rest of their lives, without fail, to prevent tissue rejection and kidney loss.
After about three months you are transferred back to the care of your original kidney specialist for regular ongoing care. We continue to work with you and your nephrologist, and review your laboratory results, for the life of your kidney. You will return to the Transplant Clinic for routine follow-up at six months and then annually.