Alternate Names : Renal Transplant, Transplantation of the Kidney
Kidney transplantation involves placing a healthy donor kidney into a person whose own kidneys have stopped working. The donor kidney can either come from someone who has died or from a living donor.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
Only people who have complete and irreversible kidney failure are candidates for this procedure. The most common causes of kidney failure are:
glomerulonephritis, which is an inflammation of the filtering cells of the kidney
polycystic kidney disease, which is a condition that causes cysts throughout the kidney
high blood pressures
pyelonephritis, an infection of the kidney
There are a few conditions that would rule out a transplant entirely. These include:
cancer within the past 5 years
infections such as tuberculosis or osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bones
severe heart, lung, or liver problems
Once a person is deemed suitable as a transplant candidate, a donor must be found. The best situation is for the donor kidney to come from a living family member or close friend.
If no suitable living donor can be found, the person can be placed on a national waiting list for a kidney from someone who has died. There are currently over 44,000 patients awaiting kidneys in the US. Waiting time can be several years.
How is the procedure performed?
The kidney is removed from the living donor in an operating room after the person is put to sleep with anesthesia. If the donor is dead, the kidney is removed at the same time that many other organs are being removed for transplantation.
The recipient of the kidney transplant is put to sleep with anesthesia. An incision is made in the lower part of one side of the abdomen. The blood vessels of the donor kidney must be connected to the corresponding vessels in the recipient's pelvis. Blood flow is restored to the donor kidney. The ureter, which is the tubular part of the kidney that carries urine, is connected to the recipient's bladder. There is usually room for the donor kidney to be implanted without having to remove the patient's original kidneys. When all the connections have been made, the incision is closed.