A transplant is when a surgeon places a healthy kidney from another person into your body. The donated kidney does much of the work that your kidneys used to do.
With all of the advances in surgical techniques, medications, and the ability to match a donor, transplantation is definitely an option to consider. It is smart to start the discussion about a transplant with your doctor early on to be able to determine if this type of treatment is a possibility for you. Many people on dialysis have been able to receive a successful transplant. Transplantation is also an alternative for some people who are nearing dialysis.
Please keep in mind that transplantation is not for everyone, so be sure to talk with your doctor.
Steps to Receiving a Transplant
If you decide that transplantation might be the treatment for you, then there are some steps that need to take place before the transplant can happen.
First, your doctor will need to make sure that you are a transplant candidate. Comprehensive medical tests will determine your eligibility. You must also go to a transplant orientation. Once it is determined that you are a candidate, you will be placed on a transplant list.
The evaluation process for receiving a transplant will start once your GFR (GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys are working) has reached 25 and you are now considered to be in Stage 4 Kidney Failure.
You may receive a kidney from a recently deceased donor or from a living donor. A living donor may be someone related or unrelated to you- usually a spouse, family member, or friend. If you do not have a living donor, you will be placed on a waiting list for kidney of a deceased donor. The waiting time for a kidney varies depending on various factors.
To receive a transplant, three factors are considered when matching kidneys with potential recipients.
- Blood type- Your blood type must be compatible with the donors. This is the most important matching factor.
- Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs)- Your cells carry six important HLAs. Three are inherited from each of your parents. Family members are most likely to have a complete match. You may still be able to receive a kidney if the HLAs do not match as long as your blood type is compatible with the kidney donor’s and the other tests show no complications with matching.
- Cross-matching antigens- This is the last test before implanting an organ into the cross-match. A small sample of your blood will be mixed with a sample of the organ donor’s blood in a tube to see if there’s a reaction. If no reaction occurs, the result is called a negative cross-match, and the transplant operation can proceed.
Types of Donors
Living Related and Unrelated Donor
- Benefits of living donor transplants
- Higher success rates than deceased donors
- Excellent kidney function
- Lower-risk of rejection compared to deceased donor transplant
- Shorter wait time than deceased donor
- Longer life of the transplanted kidney compared to deceased donor
- Deceased donor is when you are on a national waiting list
- Wait time is generally 2+ years
- Average life of transplanted kidney is 8 − 10 years