Kidney transplants: Frequently asked questions

Who qualifies for a transplant and is there an order of qualifications?

There are rules that determine who is the highest on the transplant waiting list. These are based on expected survival, time on dialysis, and other factors.

How long can one expect the kidney transplant to last?

On average, transplanted kidneys last between 10 and 12 years.

What is the recovery time after a kidney transplant? 

Two weeks after the surgery, you should start to feel much better, however, you need to take drugs to prevent rejection for the rest of your life.

What kind of lifestyle changes do you need to make?

The only other lifestyle change we encourage is for transplant patients not to be involved in contact sports. We recommend that you stay active, avoid smoking and alcohol, and stick to a healthy diet.

Can competitive athletics continue after a kidney transplant?

We recommend that people avoid contact sports: football, basketball, wrestling, soccer, and certain other sports that could result in injury to the area of the body where the transplanted kidney has been placed.

What causes rejection after a kidney transplant?

Rejection is due to the same immune response that protects yourself against colds and other viruses. Though we run tests to indicate how likely rejection will be, there is no way to be sure about whether rejection will happen or not.

What is the percentage of rejection in kidney transplantation?

Early rejection happens in about 15 percent of patients, which is the lowest it has ever been. However, most people will not lose their kidneys from this kind of rejection.

Where do kidneys come from for transplantation?

Around 30 percent of transplanted kidneys come from relatives or friends of the person with kidney failure who volunteer to donate a kidney (living donation). The other 70 percent come from patients who have died suddenly and are organ donors

What are the advantages of living donation?

There are three advantages to living donations versus getting a deceased donor kidney:

  1. There are not enough deceased donor kidneys, so getting a kidney from a friend or relative is often quicker than waiting on the transplant list for a deceased donor kidney.
  2. A kidney from a living donor is completely healthy. They are known to work better and longer than deceased donor kidneys.
  3. If the kidney is donated from a relative, the tissue may be a closer match and lower the chance of rejection.

Can someone who is not a close relative be a living donor?

Yes, a kidney from someone who is not a relative can work very well.

How does living donation affect the donor?

The risk of serious injury from a donation is low, around 1 in 10,000. Patients who donate a kidney may also be sore for some period of time, as after any major surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is different depending on whether it is an “open” surgery or by “laparoscopy.” Both start with an incision made in the person’s side, the blood vessels to the kidney get tied off, and the ureter (the tube from the kidney to the bladder) is tied off and the kidney is taken out. Typically, donors recover from laparoscopic surgery within a week and from the open surgery within a couple of weeks.

Last reviewed: 
February 2019

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