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A kidney transplant is surgery to place a donated kidney into your body. This kidney takes over the job of filtering your blood. The transplant is the treatment closest to having your own healthy kidney.
The new kidney may come from a living person (living donor), usually a family member. A kidney may also come from a person who has recently died (cadaver donor). There is a waiting list for kidneys from cadaver donors ranging from months to years, depending on your blood type.
Many tests are done to be sure a person can be a donor. You and your donor will be told how to prepare for surgery.
The surgery usually takes about 3–6 hours.
All kidneys are screened for disease before the transplant.
In most cases, your old kidneys will not be removed. This is because even failed kidneys release chemicals that help your body work.
The new kidney is placed in the lower part of your abdomen near your groin.
The new kidney is attached to nearby blood vessels. Blood can then flow through to be filtered.
The ureter is connected to your bladder to let urine flow out.
You (and any living donor) will recover in the hospital after surgery. The donor may stay in the hospital for up to a week. You may stay longer. Your new kidney may start to work right away or may take a week or two. You will be told what to do and what not to do while you’re healing.
You will need to take medications to keep your body from rejecting your transplanted kidney. These will be needed for the rest of your life. Your healthcare team will discuss possible side effects of these medications with you.
Here are some things to know before donating a kidney:
You can only donate if your blood type is compatible with the recipient’s. Other types of “matching” may also be done. The testing process may require a hospital stay of 24–48 hours.
You will be given a thorough medical checkup to be sure you’re healthy enough to donate.
The kidney you donate may be removed in traditional “open” surgery, or in a laparoscopic procedure through a smaller incision.
If you have one kidney removed, the other kidney will take over and keep you healthy.
Some of the costs of donating a kidney are covered by the recipient’s insurance.