The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on each side of the body, just beneath the ribcage. Their main role is to filter waste products from the blood before converting them to urine.
If the kidneys lose this ability then waste products can build up, which is potentially dangerous and can be life threatening. Loss of kidney function is known as end stage chronic kidney disease or kidney failure, which is the most common reason for a kidney transplant. When an individual's kidneys fail, three treatment options are available: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and kidney transplantation.
Many patients feel that a successful kidney transplant provides a better quality of life because it allows greater freedom and often is associated with increased energy levels and a less restricted diet. In making a decision about whether this is the best treatment for you, you may find it helpful to talk to people who already have had a kidney transplant. You also need to speak to your doctor, nurse and family members.
You will need to take medications every day to prevent rejection of your new kidney. Most patients need to take three types. The major one is usually cyclosporine or tacrolimus or sirolimus. In addition, you will most likely be taking some type of steroid and a third medication, such as mycophenolate mofetil or azathioprine. Additional treatment may be needed if a rejection episode occurs. Regular checkups at your transplant center will ensure early detection and treatment of rejection.
A kidney transplant is a major surgical procedure with a wide range of potential risks.
In the short term, rejection, infection and blood clots are a risk. Long term risks are usually related to the medication needed to reduce the chance of rejection (immunosuppressants). Because of this people who have had a kidney transplant require regular check-ups for the rest of their life.
Having a healthy lifestyle goes a long way to minimising these types of risks.
It’s recommended that you:
- quit smoking if you smoke
- eat a healthy diet
- lose weight if you are overweight or obese; ideally you want to achieve a body mass index of less than 25.
The outlook for a person who receives a donated kidney will depend on a number of factors. These include:
- whether the donation was a living donation or not (living donations usually have a slightly better outlook)
- whether the donation was from a close relative or someone with the same tissue type (this lowers the risk of the body rejecting the kidney)
- the age of the person receiving the donation (the younger the person, the better the outlook)
- the overall health of the person receiving the donation (the healthier a person is, the better the outlook)
The kidney survival times for living donations are:
- 1 year - 90-95%
- 5 years - 80%
- 15 years - 60%
Where kidneys are donated from someone who has recently died, the kidney survival times are:
- 1 year - 85-90%
- 5 years - 70%
- 15 years - 50%