Choosing a transplant center
If your doctor recommends a kidney transplant, you may be referred to a transplant center. You're also free to select a transplant center on your own or choose a center from your insurance company's list of preferred providers.
When you're considering transplant centers, you may want to:
- Learn about the number and type of transplants the center performs each year
- Ask about the transplant center's patient and kidney survival rates
- Consider additional services provided by the transplant center, such as coordinating support groups, assisting with travel arrangements, helping with local housing for your recovery period and offering referrals to other resources
After you've selected a transplant center, you'll need an evaluation to determine whether you meet the center's eligibility requirements for a kidney transplant.
The team at the transplant center will assess whether you:
- Are healthy enough to have surgery and tolerate lifelong post-transplant medications
- Have any medical conditions that would decrease transplant success
- Are willing and able to take medications as directed and follow the suggestions of the transplant team
Finding a donor
A kidney donor can be living or deceased, related or unrelated to you. Your health care team will consider several factors, such as blood and tissue types, when evaluating whether a living donor will be a good match for you. Family members are often the most likely to be compatible kidney donors. But many people undergo successful transplants with kidneys donated from people who are not related to them.
If a compatible living donor isn't available, your name will be placed on a waiting list for a deceased-donor kidney. Because there are fewer available kidneys than there are people waiting for a transplant, the waiting list continues to grow. The waiting time for a deceased-donor kidney is usually a few years.
Paired kidney donation may be an option if you've found someone willing to donate a kidney, but the donor's blood and tissue aren't compatible with yours. Rather than donating a kidney directly to you, your donor may give a kidney to a person whose blood and tissue is compatible with the donor's kidney, and you receive a kidney from another transplantee's donor.
Whether you're waiting for a donated kidney or your transplant surgery is already scheduled, work to stay healthy. Being healthy and as active as you're able can make it more likely you'll be ready for the transplant surgery when the time comes. It may also help speed your recovery from surgery. Work to:
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Follow your diet and exercise guidelines
- Keep all appointments with your health care team
- Stay involved in healthy activities, including relaxing and spending time with family and friends
Stay in touch with your transplant team and let them know of any significant changes in your health. If you're waiting for a donated kidney, make sure the transplant team knows how to reach you at all times. Keep your packed hospital bag handy, and make arrangements for transportation to the transplant center in advance.
Jan. 24, 2015
- Taal MW, et al. Brenner & Rector's The Kidney. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Partnering with your transplant team: The patient's guide to transplantation. United Network for Organ Sharing. http://www.unos.org/donation/index.php?topic=patient_brochures. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Treatment methods for kidney failure: Transplantation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/transplant/index.aspx. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Kidney Kaplan-Meier patient survival rates for transplants performed: 1997-2004. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/rptStrat.asp. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- The kidneys and how they work. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/yourkidneys/index.aspx. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Mai ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Sept. 30, 2014.