Kidney transplant

During a transplant, the surgeon takes a healthy kidney that is compatible with yours from another person and places it inside your body. There are two sources for a new kidney: living donor or deceased donor.

Living donor

The kidney may be donated by a family member, spouse or close friend. There are special blood tests that will show if the donor's blood and tissue will work with yours. If you and a donor have a compatible match, you can schedule surgery.

Deceased donor

The kidney comes from a person who has recently died. Your name is placed on a nation-wide donation waiting list. You may wait several years before getting a kidney.

The surgery will need to happen within 24 hours of finding out a kidney is available. While you wait for a deceased donor match, you will need to continue having dialysis. There are two types of deceased donor:

  • standard donor: the kidney comes from someone who has recently died and is brain dead
  • expanded donor: the kidney comes from someone who:
    • is age 60 or older
    • is between ages 50 and 59 with at least two of the following: history of high blood pressure, creatinine level greater than 1.5, and cause of death was stroke or aneurysm.

The kidney from a deceased donor will be accepted by the transplant center. It is then offered to kidney patients.

Patients are ranked on the list by:

  • blood type
  • tissue match
  • time spent on the waiting list
  • percentage of antibodies in the blood (known as PRA).

During surgery, the new kidney is placed inside your lower abdomen and connected to a leg artery and vein. Your failed kidneys will be left in place, unless they are causing very high blood pressure, an infection, or are very large from cysts in your kidney. Surgery takes about two hours.

You will need to take special medicines that help prevent your body from attacking or rejecting the new kidney for the rest of your life after surgery. These medicines are called immunosuppressants.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Kidney Transplant Information for Recipients and Donors, renal_ahc_93498
Reviewed By: Allina Patient Education experts, including the Transplantation Department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital
First Published: 05/15/2009
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2009