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Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplant is the most commonly conducted transplant surgery worldwide, presumably because kidneys can be donated by living donors as well, either by close relatives or friends with compatible blood and tissue type. Kidney transplantation is often a life-saving operation for patients who have irreversible end-stage renal disease or chronic kidney failure, but do not wish to undergo constant dialysis.

When the kidneys are no longer able to filter wastes and fluids, or control the electrolyte balance, a timely kidney transplant surgery must be programmed, once the availability of a healthy kidney donor (living or brain dead) is confirmed.

Patients who have one of the following conditions are not eligible for kidney transplant:

  • Patients with heart, lung or liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Some other disease that may shorten lifespan
  • Smoker, alcohol and drug abuser

The Kidney Transplant Procedure

1. With lab tests donor and recipient match is established.

2. Nephrectomy is performed to remove the healthy kidney form the donor. Nowadays doctors prefer to conduct it with laparoscopy, a minimally invasive technique that performs the operation through 5 tiny incisions made in the abdomen. This procedure implies less pain, blood loss and much shorter recovery time. The organ is then preserved in ice with a special saline solution for maximum 48 hours till the kidney transplant takes place. Kidney transplant donors normally do not suffer any long-term complication as the remaining kidney is able to compensate for the loss.

3. The patient is prepared for the kidney transplantation, which takes around 3-4 hours: they receive general anesthesia and various antibiotics against infections.

4. The incision is made in the lower belly and the new kidney is placed under the diseased kidneys over the pelvic bone. The blood flow of the donor kidney is reconnected and the ureter is attached to the bladder.

5. The patient’s kidneys are usually left in their place unless the patient has kidney cancer, infection or enlarged cystic kidneys.

6. After the kidney transplant patients are under monitoring for 7-10 weeks, receiving diuretics and dialysis if the kidneys take time to produce urine.

7. The greatest risk of kidney transplantation is immune rejection, which is the body’s negative reaction to the new organ. To avoid it immunosuppressive medication must be administered often for the rest of the life.

Kidney Transplant in Numbers

Around 80% of the heart transplant expenses and immunosuppressant drugs are covered by insurance companies and private insurers are also willing to contribute, but kidney transplantation still remains a costly procedure. The total costs may add up to over $260,000. Success rates are quite high, especially if the kidney came from a living donor. Examining a 5-year survival rate, it ranges between 65-80%.

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