Overview

A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure to place a healthy kidney from a live or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys no longer function properly.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine just below the rib cage. Each one is about the size of a fist. Their main function is to filter and remove excess waste, minerals and fluid from the blood by producing urine.

When your kidneys lose this filtering ability, harmful levels of fluid and waste accumulate in your body, which can raise your blood pressure and result in kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, which is also known as end-stage kidney disease). End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys have lost about 90 percent of their ability to function normally.

Common causes of end-stage renal disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis — an inflammation and eventual scarring of the tiny filters within your kidneys (glomeruli)
  • Polycystic kidney disease

People with end-stage renal disease need to have waste removed from their bloodstream via a machine (dialysis) or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

Mayo Clinic's approach