Kidney Transplant Process
The transplant process can be broken down into four basic areas: Evaluation, Preparation, Surgery, and Postoperative care.
All patients seeking a kidney transplant must first go through an extensive evaluation by the Upstate Kidney Transplant Team to see if a transplant is the best option for them. Prior to their evaluation patients will receive a packet of information in the mail that will help them prepare for the required evaluation appointment.
During the evaluation visit patients will meet with several members of the transplant team to discuss the details of kidney transplantation; this will include a transplant nurse coordinator, a transplant nephrologist who specializes in kidney diseases and a transplant surgeon. Patients may also meet with a social worker, a nutritionist as well as a financial coordinator to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage for all aspects of the transplantation process.
All patients must go through the same preparation both medically and personally. Patients must have a series of medical tests performed prior to their initial evaluation appointment or shortly after to ensure they can be added to the waiting list as soon as possible.
On a personal level, patients can help prepare by creating a strong community of support among family and friends. This close network of support may also prove very important if patients are considering living donation as a potential donor may more readily come forward from that close group.
Patients should try to maintain as healthy of a lifestyle as possible to include eating properly and exercising regularly. This will promote strength and endurance which will help speed up recovery following your transplant.
On the day of the surgery, patients should report directly to the hospital admissions at Upstate University Hospital. After being admitted, the transplant team will perform a final preparation for surgery both administratively to make sure all necessary paperwork has been completed and medically to make sure that no changes have occurred that would prevent surgery.
Until patients are taken to the operating room for their surgery, family members may remain with them and are encouraged to do so.
The transplant surgery will take approximately two to four hours. The patient is put under anesthesia and then an incision is made in the lower abdomen to accommodate the placement of the transplant kidney. If the transplant is a result of a living donation then the operating room where the donor kidney is being removed will be situated directly adjacent to the recipient's operating room to facilitate the quickest and easiest transferal possible. After the transplant surgery has been completed patients are moved to the surgical recovery room where family members may see them.
Following surgery, patients are moved to a surgical recovery room where it is important to ensure that the transplanted kidney is functioning properly. This is primary determined by the creation of urine. Kidneys transplanted from a living donor usually start making a large amount of urine almost immediately so a catheter will be inserted right away in order to drain urine from the bladder. Kidneys from deceased donors however may take days or even weeks to start producing urine. In the event this happens, patients may need to go on dialysis for a short period of time. Typically, transplant patients can leave the hospital and return home within three to seven days following their surgery.
As with any surgery follow-up, care is essential to ensure quick recovery and the best possible outcome. It is important for kidney transplant patients to take all medications as prescribed and to be aware of the possible side effects of these medications. Patients must also pay close attention to their diet as some foods may interact with their medications. They must also be aware that some over-the-counter medications, particularly many cough and cold medications, can have harmful effects on a transplanted kidney.