Kidney transplant process at Mayo Clinic

At Mayo Clinic, the kidney transplantation process involves several steps before, during and after your kidney transplant surgery.

Before your transplant

Mayo Clinic doctors trained in kidney transplantation and other members of the transplant team evaluate you and determine whether a kidney transplant may be safe and beneficial for you. Your evaluation may last two or three days and may include:

  • Blood tests, including blood and tissue type analysis
  • Imaging studies, including X-rays
  • Optional consultations with specialists for infections, heart disease (cardiovascular disease) and other conditions

Once you're approved for a kidney transplant, remain in close contact with the transplant center, and notify your transplant coordinator of any significant changes in your medical or social situation. Also, maintain your general health as much as possible. To maintain your health, you may need to lose weight, quit using tobacco products and exercise regularly three to four times a week.

After you're approved for a kidney transplant, you'll be encouraged to seek out potential living donors among your friends and family. If a suitable living donor is identified, your transplant may proceed immediately.

If you and the transplant team can't identify any suitable living donors, you'll be placed on a waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. You usually will be on a waiting list for one to four years. Your waiting time for a kidney transplant may vary because of your blood type, tissue type and several other factors. While waiting for a deceased donor kidney, you'll need to stay in close communication with the transplant team, and be prepared to get to the hospital quickly after you receive notice that a donor kidney is available.

Transplant surgery

Before your transplant, you'll have important blood tests to ensure that your body is compatible with the potential donor's organ and to check that antibodies in your body don't react to the donor's cells.

In some cases, surgeons may still be able to perform a kidney transplant if your antibodies react against your donor's cells (positive crossmatch kidney transplant) or if you have an incompatible blood type (ABO incompatible kidney transplant).

During kidney transplant surgery, doctors give you a general anesthetic and a special incision pain-blocking anesthetic. Your surgeon makes an incision in your lower abdomen and places the donor kidney near your bladder in your lower abdomen. Surgeons restore blood supply to your new kidney by connecting your kidney to your blood vessels. Your surgeon then attaches the tube that connects the bladder and kidney (ureter) to your bladder. Your own kidneys aren't removed. Your new kidney often begins to function immediately.

After your transplant

After your transplant, you'll usually stay in the hospital for three to four days to recover. Your transplant team will watch your recovery process during your stay in the hospital.

  • Care after your transplant. After leaving the hospital, you'll need to stay near Mayo Clinic for two to three weeks so your doctors can monitor your new kidney function and your recovery.
  • Follow-up care. Your doctor will update your primary health care provider about your progress and give recommendations for your care at home. In addition, a certified transplant nurse coordinator will answer your questions and communicate with you and your primary health care provider for several months. You'll have follow-up appointments at Mayo Clinic on an annual basis or more frequently if necessary.
  • Medications. You'll need to take immunosuppressant medications for life to keep your body from rejecting your kidney. Your transplant team will discuss your new medications in detail.
  • Returning to wellness. The transplant team considers your return to wellness after your transplant a priority. You'll be given specific guidelines to increase your activity through a supervised exercise plan and nutrition plan. Your transplant team will work with you to help you make healthy lifestyle choices to achieve an optimal transplant outcome.

Read more about kidney transplant.