From being added to the transplant list to undergoing surgery and making steps toward recovery, kidney transplants are a lot to take in. Dr. Amit Tevar, surgical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, outlines the process, step-by-step.

Be prepared

The first thing patients should do, Dr. Tevar says, is “take a deep breath.”

Patients should contact their transplant program and set up an evaluation so they can get on the transplant list as soon as possible. The list orders kidney recipients by need based on factors including blood type, age, antibody level and time spent on dialysis.

“One of the most important aspects of being active on the transplant list is to keep your transplant center abreast of any changes in your medical condition.”

"One of the most important priorities for anyone experiencing renal issues is to stay informed about the status of their conditions."

The procedure

“The procedure of renal transplant is successfully performed many times, at different centers throughout the United States each day,” adds Dr. Tevar. He explains that it begins with a general anesthetic and an incision used to identify the vessels that supply blood to the leg.

“The kidney transplant is then connected to the blood vessels to provide blood to the new organ, and the ureter is connected to the bladder to allow for urine produced by the kidney to be excreted,” he says. “The native kidneys are most commonly left in place.”
Typically, the procedure lasts several hours and patients remain in the hospital for 3 to 5 days afterward.

Recovery

Dr. Tevar advises patients to take their time in recovery. “As you begin to acclimate to a life without hemodialysis, and slowly resume your activity level prior to transplant, closely follow your transplant provider instructions,” he notes. “In addition, be sure to contact you transplant center with any questions or change in your condition.”

One of the most important priorities for anyone experiencing renal issues is to stay informed about the status of their conditions.

“Patients with end-stage disease often don’t realize that they are candidates for transplantation,” Tevar points out. “This life-saving gift is the only chance that patients with end stage kidney disease will have to make a recovery from their condition. Don’t hesitate to contact your local transplant center or organ procurement organization to get more information.”