Your kidneys play an important role in filtering harmful waste products and excess fluids from your body. When these vital organs falter, waste and fluid accumulation sparks distressing symptoms and may even lead to death. This dire state often stems from chronic kidney disease, which is a common cause of kidney failure.
When your kidneys can no longer filter waste properly, you will need either dialysis or a kidney transplant. A kidney transplant extends a lifeline to those grappling with chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal failure. The typical lifespan of transplanted kidneys is around a decade, offering a significant boost in quality of life.
A kidney transplant is a procedure to place a healthy kidney in the body of someone who’s kidneys no longer function properly.
The kidney can come from either a living or deceased donor, although living donor kidneys usually last longer than deceased donor kidneys. To prevent complications, potential kidney donors are carefully screened to make sure they are a good match. Donor kidneys can come from compatible immediate family members, spouses, and friends.
Who Qualifies For A Kidney Transplant?
Your healthcare provider will guide you through the eligibility criteria for a kidney transplant. Generally, you qualify if you have:
- End-stage renal failure, reliant on dialysis.
- Late-stage chronic kidney disease.
- A life expectancy exceeding five years.
- Full comprehension of and commitment to postoperative instructions.
You may not qualify for a kidney transplant if you have a serious health condition, a recurring infection, a short life expectancy or continue to abuse drugs or alcohol.
When Is Dialysis Needed?
Dialysis is a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when your kidneys stop working properly. This painless procedure involves diverting your blood to a machine to be purified. Although dialysis is a very effective treatment option for clearing waste products and extra fluid from your blood, it cannot fully replicate the kidneys’ multifaceted functions
People with permanent kidney failure should ideally receive a kidney transplant. However, due to long wait times for organ transplants, dialysis is needed until a donor kidney becomes available. People who do not qualify for a kidney transplant will need to remain on dialysis indefinitely.
How Is A Kidney Transplant Performed?
A kidney transplant involves placing a healthy kidney into the body or someone with a non-functioning kidney, where it can perform all necessary kidney functions. The donor kidney is placed underneath the original kidney. This allows the new kidney to be easily connected to blood vessels and your bladder. The vein and artery of your new kidney are attached to your vein and artery while the donor kidney’s ureter is attached to your bladder to allow urine to flow out of your body.
In most cases, your surgeon will leave your own kidneys inside your body. However, they might be removed if there is a threat of an infection spreading to the donor kidney, if you have unmanaged high blood pressure caused by your original kidneys, or if you have urine reflux (backup) into your kidneys.
What Are The Advantages Of Kidney Transplant?
There are significant benefits to having a kidney transplant if you are suffering with chronic kidney disease. A kidney transplant greatly increases your strength, and energy levels. It can enable you to return to a more normal lifestyle and have more control over your daily living.
Long-term dialysis can be very taxing. When on dialysis you need to follow certain dietary restrictions and adhere to a strict dialysis schedule. When done in hospital, dialysis needs to be done 3 days a week, with each session lasting around 4 hours. A kidney transplant allows you to escape from the dialysis regime and take control over your body’s natural process in getting rid of fluids. This gives you far more freedom and, in general, a much better quality of life.
A kidney transplant can sometimes correct common problems relating to kidney failure, such as anaemia and hypertension (high blood pressure). As a result of correcting these problems, you may be able to take fewer of certain medications, after transplantation.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Kidney Transplant?
As with all major surgery, kidney transplantation carries the risk of bleeding, infection or breathing problems. As you will be given immunosuppressant medication after the transplant, you might experience some side effects from the medications. Because these medications lower your body’s ability to fight infection, they may make you more vulnerable to infections.
As with any major surgery, risks like bleeding, infection, and breathing complications always need to be considered. You will be given immunosuppressant medication after the transplant, which might evoke side effects and make you suseptable to infections.
Recovery From A Kidney Transplant
In general, recovery following a kidney transplant takes around 6 weeks. After you are discharged from hospital, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions to support your recovery. General guidelines include:
- Ease into exercises and walking over 6-8 weeks post-operation but avoid contact sports
- Avoid driving for 6 weeks
- Hydrate with 2 liters of water daily
- Prioritise protein for muscle strength.
- Avoid raw or undercooked foods
- Avoid grapefruit (grapefruit juice as they can cause a strong reaction with immunosuppressant medications)
- Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Avoid vitamins and herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort and Schisandra.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Many people lead healthy, fulfilling lives after a kidney transplant. On average, a donor kidney can remain healthy for up to 10 years.
Most kidney transplant patients can return to work within a few months.
Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, involves a gradual loss of kidney function. It occurs when your kidneys stop working properly, resulting in waste products and fluid accumulating in your body.