If you are diagnosed with kidney failure at an early stage, dialysis may help delay or even prevent their complete failure. But when kidney failure has advanced and your kidneys have stopped working completely, a kidney transplant may be necessary.
Kidney dialysis will only help to get rid of waste products from the body, but it does not replace all the important functions of normal kidneys. But a transplant helps in replacing the lost functions of the failed kidneys. These functions include:
- Continuous removal of metabolic wastes
- Continuous removal of excess body fluids
- The production of the hormone, erythropoietin that helps prevent anemia
- The conversion of Vitamin D present in food to an active compound that helps keep bones healthy
- Regulation of blood pressure
- The excretion of certain drugs
Kidney transplantation has been deemed to increase the quality and quantity of life of kidney failure patients as compared to dialysis. And it is undertaken by doctors when you are fit enough to undergo a transplant.
The Assessment for Kidney Transplantation
Making the decision for a kidney transplant is not an easy one, and it will involve the views and assessments of a team of doctors including the transplant surgeon, the nephrologist, a specialist if you have other conditions that may affect your recovery after the transplant, and you, of course.
The assessment for transplant does not depend on age, gender or ethnicity but the fitness of the patient. So, special assessments will be made if you have a history of cardiac or chest conditions or any other important conditions to determine if the risks are too high for the transplant. Various tests are undertaken to assess your eligibility for the transplant, including the test for your tissue type and whether you have previously had or still have viral infections such as Hepatitis B or C, HIV or a cytomegalovirus infection.
Once all the needed assessments are done and you are proclaimed fit for the transplant, you will be put on the transplant waiting list or will be asked by the nephrology team if you have any family member or friends who would be willing to donate their kidney. The pros and cons of the kidney donation will be discussed in detail with the donor and you to help make an informed decision.
The Transplant Procedure
The kidney transplantation surgery is a complex surgery that usually takes about 3 hours to be completed. Once you have found a donor, and transplant is decided on, you will be required to be admitted to the hospital, and a quick assessment is done to confirm that you haven’t developed any new medical problems after the initial assessment was done. Some of the tests may be repeated.
The surgery involves 3 main stages:
- First, an incision is done in the lower abdomen through which the donated kidney is positioned in its place.
- Second, the nearby blood vessels are attached to the donated kidney to ensure blood supply needed for the proper functioning of the new kidney.
- Lastly, the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder) of the donated kidney is attached to your bladder.
Life after the Transplant Surgery
It is very important to become active as soon as the surgery is done. Some pain may exist at the incision site, but this will be taken care of by painkillers prescribed by the surgeon. Transplant patients are encouraged to get out of the bed on the very next day of the operation, even if it means just sitting on a chair. The drain, catheter and the IV drips will be removed eventually, and you will be able to walk in your ward around the 5th day of the operation.
You will be ready to resume your normal activities within 6 weeks of the transplant surgery and can start work too. Exercise is very important for a speedy recovery as it is for the maintenance of your health, and you should make it an essential part of your life.
Most transplant patients are able to leave the hospital in a week’s time of the surgery, but you will be required to visit the transplant center frequently so your new kidney can be assessed, and its functioning tested. You will need to go to the transplant center for 2 to 3 times a week during the first few weeks, and then your visits will be cut down, once your doctors are satisfied with your test results. You will only have to visit the center once in a few months 1 year after the surgery.