Kidney Transplant: What Candidates Should Know

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When the kidneys stop working properly, it may result in building up waste and extra fluids in the blood. Dialysis is one of the method to treat kidney failure, and the other one is kidney transplant. The transplant will give more freedom with their daily schedule in comparison to dialysis. The survival rates are good after a kidney transplant and it can be a long-term treatment for renal failure. However, it’s a major surgery. Here’s what you should know before you decide it’s right for you.

How Do I Get a Donor Kidney?

If the surgeon has advised you to get a kidney transplant, the hospital will get in touch with a local transplant centre for you. In case there is a candidate for living donor transplant, they will have to undergo certain medical exams and scans to ensure there is no risk from the transplant process. 

The most preferred method is a “living donor”. It can be from a family member or close friend who is willing to give one of their healthy kidneys. A non-relative is also eligible for a kidney donation if they are a match. The other way to get a kidney is a deceased organ donor. The overall kidney transplant price in India will depends on the method of selection of donor kidney.

The donor is matched for their blood and tissue to make sure that it matches with the recipient. This is done to raise the chances that the patient’s immune system will accept the donor kidney and not try to attack it, i.e. rejection.

In case of a living donor, all the initial testing for matching tissue are done for potential candidates. Then they will be able to schedule the date of their transplant surgery. But if one is waiting for a kidney from a deceased organ donor, then it may take much longer than expected. As they will be placed on a waiting list. Once a kidney is available, then you’ll receive a call telling you to get to the hospital right away.

What Happens During Surgery?

A team of surgeons is required for a kidney transplant procedure and often takes 3 hours, but can last as long as 5 hours.

The patient will be given anesthesia so that they stay asleep during the surgery. Then once they are asleep then the surgeon will make an opening in the abdomen, just above the groin area. Patients’ own kidneys won’t be removed unless they’re infected or causing pain, but the donor kidney will be put in. The new kidney will be attached to blood vessels. Then, the surgeon will connect it to the ureter (the tube that carries urine from your kidney) and bladder.

Then the opening will be closed with stitches, special glue, or staples. A small drain may be put into the abdomen to get rid of any extra fluid that’s built up during the surgery. The surgeon will also insert a tiny tube called a stent into the ureter to help drain the urine. This will be removed after a few weeks.

If a patient’s damaged kidney is removed, then they also have the option of giving it to a kidney research group. Researchers  will study it to learn more about kidney disease and hopefully get closer to a cure. If one is interested in giving it out to a research group, they have to inform the transplant doctor ahead of time, so that they can make the required arrangements.

What’s Recovery Like?

The patient may be able to get out of bed and walk around the day after the transplant. Most patients stay in the hospital for 5 days or more.

Although one should start to feel much better in about 2 weeks, they won’t be able to drive or lift heavy objects for about a month. Your surgeon will probably advise you to take off work for 6 to 8 weeks.

To stop the body from rejecting the donor kidney, patients need to take a special medication every day. Initially, it is also required to visit the doctor 2 to 3 times each week to make sure that your body is healing the way it should. Over time, these visits can be reduced depending upon the progress.

The patients are known to recover faster if they will stay active. Doctors will prescribe you what exercises are safe to do and for how long. The majority of people start with walking and stretching, then slowly build up to longer and more intense workouts. But contact sports, like soccer and football, will be off limits for some time as it can harm the donor kidney.

Giving up on smoking and alcohol are key to stay healthy and longer. It is also a good idea to talk to a dietitian about healthy eating. 

When Should I Call a Doctor?

Undergoing a kidney transplant puts one at risk for health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. These people are also more prone to get infections. This can occur at the site of the incision. Or, it could be a yeast infection or a virus that affects the whole body, like shingles.

There’s also a chance that patient’s body may start to attack the donor kidney, this is known as organ reject. The symptoms of a rejection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pain, especially while peeing
  • Producing less urine than normal

If a patient notices any of these signs, they should call the doctor right away. 

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