In most cases, the diseased kidney or kidneys are not actually removed during a transplant procedure. Instead, the donor kidney is placed in a location different from the original kidney, which is connected to a different blood supply than the renal artery. This approach has been shown to achieve better surgical outcomes than the outright removal and replacement of a kidney.
Donor kidneys are available in two ways: either by deceased individuals who have donated their organs, or by living donors, who may or may not be related to the recipient. Family members or close friends may donate a kidney, although they may not have the right blood or tissue type required for a successful transplant.
Medicare and most insurance companies cover kidney transplants.
How to start the process:
- Talk to your physician
- Contact a transplant center and complete an application
- Financial approval will be given by the center
The primary reason to consider kidney transplant is that it offers the potential for a longer and improved quality of life. In addition, individuals who undergo successful transplants have fewer diet and lifestyle restrictions. It is easier to work, travel, exercise, and remain active.
Transplant recipients require fewer visits to the hospital and do not have to undergo dialysis.
Due to many years of experience performing this procedure, as well as improvements in the medications that prevent rejection, the medical community has a very high success rate with kidney transplants.
There are risks associated with any surgical procedure and these should be discussed with your physician and surgeon prior to making your decision. Risks include bleeding, infection, and breathing problems.
The cost of surgery is high and, as a result, your out-of-pocket expenses may also be high.
Medication must be taken for the rest of your life to prevent rejection of the new organ. Anti-rejection medications have side effects and can increase your risk of infection and cancer.
Finally, the transplanted kidney may not work or fail at some point requiring dialysis or another transplant.
The No Treatment Option
If you choose not to have a kidney transplant, as well as not receive or continue to receive dialysis care, you are choosing the "no treatment" option.
Before making this decision, it is important to understand patients with kidney failure who choose "no treatment" will eventually die.
Before you decide, discuss your feelings and concerns with your doctors, family and friends.
- You can give dialysis a "trial" period to determine if it is beneficial to you.
- Avoid making the decision if you are depressed.
- You can obtain more information about advance directives and making end of life decisions by contacting the National Hospice and Pallative Care Organization at 800-658-8898.