Kidney Transplantation Procedure

(Kidney Transplant, Renal Transplant)

Procedure overview

What is a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure performed to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy kidney from another person. The kidney may come from a deceased organ donor or from a living donor. Family members or individuals who are unrelated but make a good match may be able to donate one of their kidneys. This type of transplant is called a living transplant. Individuals who donate a kidney can live healthy lives with the remaining kidney.

A person receiving a transplant usually receives only one kidney, but, in rare situations, he/she may receive two kidneys from a deceased donor. In most cases, the diseased kidneys are left in place during the transplant procedure. The transplanted kidney is implanted in the lower abdomen on the front side of the body.

How do the kidneys work?

The body takes nutrients from food and converts them to energy. After the body has taken the food that it needs, waste products are left behind in the bowel and in the blood.

The kidneys and urinary system keep chemicals, such as potassium and sodium, and water in balance, and remove a type of waste, called urea, from the blood. Urea is produced when foods containing protein, such as meat, poultry, and certain vegetables, are broken down in the body. Urea is carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys. Kidneys also regulate fluid and acid-base balance in the body.

Two kidneys, a pair of purplish-brown organs, are located below the ribs toward the middle of the back. Their function is to:

  • Remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine

  • Keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood

  • Produce erythropoietin, a hormone that aids the formation of red blood cells

  • Regulate blood pressure

The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule.

Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.

Reasons for the procedure

A kidney transplant may be recommended for people with end stage renal disease (ESRD), a permanent condition of kidney failure that often requires dialysis (a process used to remove wastes and other substances from the blood). Some conditions of the kidneys that may result in ESRD include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Repeated urinary infections

  • Kidney failure caused by diabetes or high blood pressure

  • Polycystic kidney disease or other inherited disorders

  • Glomerulonephritis - inflammation of the kidney's filtering units

  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome - a rare disorder that causes kidney failure

  • Lupus and other diseases of the immune system

  • Obstructions

Other conditions, such as congenital defects of the kidneys, may result in the need for a kidney transplant.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a kidney transplant.

Risks of the procedure

As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some complications may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Blockage of the blood vessels to the new kidney

  • Leakage of urine or blockage of urine in the ureter

  • Initial lack of function of the new kidney

The new kidney may be rejected. Rejection is a normal reaction of the body to a foreign object or tissue. When a new kidney is transplanted into a recipient's body, the immune system reacts to what it perceives as a threat and attacks the new organ, not realizing that the transplanted kidney is beneficial. To allow the transplanted organ to survive in a new body, medications must be taken to trick the immune system into accepting the transplant and not attacking it as a foreign object.

The medications used to prevent or treat rejection have side effects. The exact side effects will depend on the specific medications that are taken.

Contraindications for kidney transplantation include, but are not limited to, the following:



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