Kidney Transplant | Cigna (2023)

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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Kidney Transplant

  1. Kidney Transplant
(Video) Kidney Transplant Surgery | Inside the OR

Surgery Overview

A kidney transplant is surgery to give you a healthy kidney from another person. The new kidney may come from someone you know. Or it may come from a stranger or a person who has died.

Before you have a transplant, you may need to have tests to see how well the donor kidney matches your tissue type and blood type.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in your lower belly. This cut is called an incision. The doctor places the donated kidney in your lower belly. Your own kidneys are not taken out unless they're causing problems. The doctor then connects the blood vessels of the new kidney to your blood vessels. The doctor also connects the ureter of the new kidney to your bladder. (A ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.) Then the doctor closes the incision with stitches or staples. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

You need only one healthy kidney to live. The new kidney can do the work that your own kidneys can't do. It will remove waste from your blood. And it will balance your body's fluids and chemicals. Your new kidney may start to work very soon after surgery. Or it may not start to work well for a few weeks. If your kidney doesn't start to work right away, you will need to have dialysis until the new kidney can take over.

You will probably spend 5 to 10 days in the hospital. The doctor will remove the stitches or staples about 1 to 3 weeks after surgery.

Most people need to take about 4 weeks off from work. But it depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

What To Expect

What To Expect

Within a few days, you may start to feel much better than you did before. But you may have some pain or soreness in your belly or side. It may take time for your new kidney to produce urine. So you may have to receive dialysis and take medicines, such as diuretics.

(Video) What Is a Kidney Transplant?

Most people go home from the hospital 5 to 10 days after surgery. It will probably take about 4 weeks before you can get back to your job or usual activities.

You'll have to take medicines every day from now on. Otherwise, your body may reject the new kidney. These medicines also make your immune system weaker. You'll be more likely to get an infection or become sick.

If your body starts to reject the kidney, your doctor may be able to stop the rejection. But if not, you'll need to have dialysis again or another transplant.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

Kidney transplant surgery is done so that a healthy kidney (donor kidney) can do what your diseased kidney can no longer do. Kidney transplant is used when you have severe chronic kidney disease (renal failure) that cannot be reversed by another treatment method. You will not be able to have this surgery if you have an active infection, another life-threatening disease such as cancer, or severe heart or lung disease.

How Well It Works

How Well It Works

If you have severe chronic kidney disease and choose to have a kidney transplant, you may live longer than if you choose to treat your kidney disease with dialysis alone.

In the past, transplants using a kidney from a first-degree relative, such as your father, mother, brother, or sister, worked best. But with modern antirejection drugs, kidneys from people you aren't related to work well too. Transplants from living donors or from deceased donors can succeed.

During the first weeks to months after your surgery, your body may try to reject your new kidney. This is called acute rejection. It occurs in about 1 out of 10 people in the first year after transplant. footnote 1 Most of the time, acute rejection can be treated with antirejection (immunosuppressive) medicines.

(Video) Kidney Transplant Education



The risks of having a kidney transplant include:

  • Rejection of the new kidney.
  • Severe infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Reaction to the anesthesia used for surgery.
  • Failure of the donor kidney.



  1. Hart A, et al. (2019). OPTN/SRTR 2017 annual data report: Kidney. American Journal of Transplantation, 19(Suppl 2): 19–23. DOI: 10.1111/ajt.15274. Accessed August, 16, 2019.

Current as of: October 18, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

(Video) Kidney Transplant Surgery. Living-Donor Kidney Transplant - 2019

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(Video) Lecture 2-6: Kidney transplant surgery


How long can a person with kidney transplant live? ›

A living donor kidney functions, on average, 12 to 20 years, and a deceased donor kidney from 8 to 12 years. Patients who get a kidney transplant before dialysis live an average of 10 to 15 years longer than if they stayed on dialysis.

How serious is a kidney transplant? ›

Kidney transplant surgery carries a risk of significant complications, including: Blood clots and bleeding. Leaking from or blockage of the tube that links the kidney to the bladder (ureter) Infection.

Can you live a full life with a kidney transplant? ›

A successful kidney transplant may allow you to live longer and to live the kind of life you were living before you got kidney disease. For many patients, there are fewer limits on what you can eat and drink, though you should follow a heart-healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight to help your new kidney last.

What is the success rate of kidney transplant? ›

94.88% success rate for deceased donor transplant

People who receive kidneys from living donors generally live longer than those who receive a kidney from a deceased donor. Kidneys from living donors tend to last longer than those from deceased donors.

Why do kidney transplants not last forever? ›

Chronic Rejection

This is the most common reason that kidney transplants fail. It is the long-term damage done by the body's immune system for a lot of different reasons. It is important to realize that transplant patients have NO CONTROL over most of these causes of transplant failure.

Can you live 40 years after kidney transplant? ›

For example, a 30-year-old on dialysis would have a life expectancy of 15 years. With a deceased kidney donor transplant (a kidney from someone who is brain-dead), life expectancy increases to 30 years. Best of all, a living donor kidney transplant increases life expectancy to 40 years.

Can a person live with one kidney? ›

Most people live normal, healthy lives with one kidney. However, it's important to stay as healthy as possible, and protect the only kidney you have.

How many hours is kidney transplant surgery? ›

The kidney transplant operation typically takes three hours. The surgical team will place the donor kidney through a small incision into the patient's pelvis, and delicately connect the vein, artery, and ureter. Typically, only one kidney is transplanted because only one kidney is needed to gain normal function.

Is dialysis better than kidney transplant? ›

Kidney transplantation is considered the treatment of choice for many people with severe chronic kidney disease because quality of life and survival (life expectancy) are often better than in people who are treated with dialysis.

What can't you eat after kidney transplant? ›

During the early stages after a transplant, while you're on higher doses of immunosuppressant medicine, you should avoid eating foods that carry a high risk of food poisoning, including: unpasteurised cheese, milk or yoghurt. foods containing raw eggs (such as mayonnaise) undercooked or raw meats, fish and shellfish.

What is the age cut off for a kidney transplant? ›

Seniors Aren't Too Old to Get a Transplant

Many of the nation's transplant centers don't even have an upper age limit for kidney transplant recipients. Almost half of all Americans suffering from advanced kidney disease are older than 65 and the wait time for hopeful recipients age 65 and older is nearly 4 years.

How long does it take to recover after kidney transplant? ›

Recovery tips: Transplant patients usually return to normal activities within four to eight weeks. It's important to avoid any heavy lifting during this recovery period. You can help your recovery and reduce the risk of complications by: Taking your medications as directed.

What is the biggest problem with kidney transplants? ›

Infection. Minor infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), colds and flu, are common after kidney transplants. You can also get more serious infections, such as pneumonia and cytomegalovirus (CMV), which may require hospital treatment.

Can a kidney transplant last 50 years? ›

The world record: 56 years

On average, a transplanted kidney from a deceased donor lasts about 15 years. We now know that survival rates are significantly better for transplants from living donors and still better for transplants from related donors.

Can you live without a kidney? ›

Can you live without kidneys? Because your kidneys are so important, you cannot live without them. But it is possible to live a perfectly healthy life with only one working kidney.

Which organ Cannot transplant? ›

Organs are usually transplanted because the recipient's original organs are damaged and cannot function. The brain is the only organ in the human body that cannot be transplanted.

Who pays if you donate a kidney? ›

All medical services related to organ donation are submitted to the recipient's insurance. Your recipient's insurance typically covers all medical services related to your organ donation, including your evaluation, hospitalization, surgery, follow-up care and treatment of any surgical complications.

Can you have 2 kidney transplants? ›

People who donate a kidney can live healthy lives with one healthy kidney. A person getting a transplant most often gets just 1 kidney. In rare situations, he or she may get 2 kidneys from a deceased donor. The diseased kidneys are usually left in place.

What to expect after losing a kidney? ›

People can live normal lives with only one kidney. As long as the donor is evaluated thoroughly and cleared for donation, he or she can lead a normal life after the surgery. When the kidney is removed, the single normal kidney will increase in size to compensate for the loss of the donated kidney.

What causes kidney failure? ›

What causes kidney failure? High blood pressure and diabetes are the two most common causes of kidney failure. They can also become damaged from physical injury, diseases, or other disorders.

How do you improve kidney function? ›

What can I do to keep my kidneys healthy?
  1. Make healthy food choices. ...
  2. Make physical activity part of your routine. ...
  3. Aim for a healthy weight. ...
  4. Get enough sleep. ...
  5. Stop smoking. ...
  6. Limit alcohol intake link. ...
  7. Explore stress-reducing activities. ...
  8. Manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Do you need dialysis after kidney transplant? ›

Dialysis is usually required in the first 48 hours after surgery and will continue to be required on a regular basis. Patients with primary non-function have a renal biopsy that reveals irreversible damage. In most cases the transplanted kidney needs to be removed.

Who Cannot get a kidney transplant? ›

You may not be eligible to receive a kidney transplant due to: The presence of some other life-threatening disease or condition that would not improve with transplantation. This could include certain cancers, infections that cannot be treated or cured, or severe, uncorrectable heart disease.

Is kidney dialysis a lifetime? ›

Dialysis does some of the work of healthy kidneys, but it does not cure your kidney disease. You will need to have dialysis treatments for your whole life unless you are able to get a kidney transplant.

Who gets a kidney transplant first? ›

A 16-year-old boy received the kidney of his mother as living donor transplantation. Then in 1954, a milestone was made with the first long-term successful kidney transplantation by Joseph Murray: the transplantation was done between monozygotic twins; the organ survived for 8 years.

Are you normal after kidney transplant? ›

Most kidney transplant recipients can expect to return to work or normal activities within 6 to 8 weeks after their kidney transplantation surgery. Before you leave the hospital, you will receive instructions on how to care for your new organ.

Can your personality change after a kidney transplant? ›

Conclusions. Recipients suffered from a higher level of depression and somatic concerns than donors before living kidney transplantation. Psychological problems like depression and anxiety can occur in both living kidney transplantation donors and recipients.

How do you take care of yourself after a kidney transplant? ›

Your kidney transplant is more likely to work for longer if you keep to a healthy weight, exercise regularly, only drink alcohol in moderation and stop smoking. You may feel sore for a week or two after the operation. Your doctor will talk to you about pain management and medications you can take to relieve the pain.

Is life expectancy shortened with one kidney? ›

Having a single kidney does not affect your life-span. One kidney can still provide up to 75 percent of normal kidney function.

Do you go to ICU after kidney transplant? ›

After Surgery - In the Hospital

In rare cases, kidney transplant recipients will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) for a brief period of observation. The patient will remain in the hospital for a total of about five to seven days following surgery.

Can kidney transplant lead to death? ›

Causes and Trend of One-Year Mortality

Of the 210,327 patients, 6,774 (3.2%) died within 1 year after receiving a kidney transplant; 756 (11.2%) patients' cause of death was reported as unknown, while 1,959 (28.9%) patients cause of death was missing (Table 2).

What happens if a kidney transplant fails? ›

If your new kidney fails, you will need to go back on dialysis to live. You can also get evaluated for another kidney transplant. If you are healthy enough, you can have more than one kidney transplant.

Can transplanted kidney last 30 years? ›

Transplanted Organs Don't Last Forever

A transplanted kidney lasts on average 10 to 13 years if the organ came from a living donor and seven to nine years if it was from a deceased donor, according to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Can a transplanted kidney last 20 years? ›

How long does a transplanted kidney last? On average, a kidney from a living donor lasts about 15 to 20 years. Some will last longer; others might last less.

Do kidney transplant patients live longer than dialysis? ›

While both treatments have advantages and disadvantages, studies show that patients who have a successful kidney transplant live longer than patients treated with dialysis. * Also, many patients who have a transplant report having better quality of life compared to being on dialysis.

Is your life shortened after a kidney transplant? ›

Living donation does not change life expectancy, and does not appear to increase the risk of kidney failure. In general, most people with a single normal kidney have few or no problems; however, you should always talk to your transplant team about the risks involved in donation.

How do you feel after a kidney transplant? ›

Your belly and side will be sore for the first 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. You also may have some numbness around the cut (incision) the doctor made. You may feel tired while you are healing. It may take 3 to 6 weeks for your energy to fully return.

How painful is donating a kidney? ›

How much will it hurt? Everyone is different, but you could be in a lot of pain after the surgery. But it will get easier each day, and there are different types of pain relievers to make you feel better. Shortly after surgery, as your anesthesia wears off, you'll get pain medication through an IV into a vein.

Is a kidney transplant worth it? ›

Benefits of kidney transplant surgery

If you have a successful kidney transplant, you may live a longer life than you would have while on dialysis. You may also have fewer health complications and enjoy a better quality of life.

Why you should not donate a kidney? ›

Long-Term/Medical Risks

Other complications that may occur in the long-term following surgery to donate a kidney include: Developing a disease that could affect the function of the remaining kidney such as: Diabetes. High blood pressure.


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