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How Long Is Surgery For A Kidney Transplant

Recovery After Transplant Surgery

Learn About Kidney Transplant Surgery for Kidney Diseases & Getting a Living Donor

Hospital recovery for a kidney transplant is usually 4-5 days if there are no complications. The length of stay depends on your medical condition and needs.

You’ll be in a specialized transplant care area for the duration of your hospital stay. You may be able to get out of bed the day after surgery. In rare instances, you may require a short stay in intensive care before you are moved to the specialized transplant care area.

Before you go home, we’ll give you information about your medications, lab tests and follow-up care.

We offer a variety of appointment types. or call to schedule now.

How Can I Get More Information

A kidney transplant program will have detailed information about their evaluation process and their criteria for accepting transplant candidates. To locate a kidney transplant program closest to you please visit:

The toll-free patient services line of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network can provide information about the OPTN, allocation policy and other resources available to you, in both English and Spanish. Additional information is available online on the following websites:

What Is The Average Life Expectancy After A Kidney Transplant

The life expectancy after kidney transplantation may depend on a number of factors, including the donor kidney a living or deceased donor, how well the kidney is matched for blood group and tissue type, and the age and overall health of the patient receiving the donors kidney.

On average, a kidney from a living donor lasts is known to last about 15 to 20 years. Some may last even longer if proper care is taken by the recipient. Patients in the age group of 40 or less may have a life expectancy of around 22 years after a kidney transplant.

However, with increasing age, such as with people in the age group of 50, the life expectancy goes down to 16 years, and those in their 60s may have a life expectancy of 11.5 years after a successful kidney transplant. If a kidney transplant fails, the patient is usually put back on the waiting list for another transplant. They may also need dialysis in the meantime.

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Have Your Kidney Transplant

During kidney transplant surgery, a surgeon places a healthy kidney into your body. Youll receive general anesthesia before the surgery. The surgery usually takes 3 or 4 hours. Unless your damaged kidneys cause infections or high blood pressure or are cancerous, they can stay in your body. Surgeons usually transplant a kidney into the lower abdomen near the groin.

If youre on a waiting list for a donor kidney, you must go to the hospital to have your transplant surgery as soon as you learn that a kidney is available.

If a family member or friend is donating the kidney, youll schedule the surgery in advance. Your surgical team will operate on you and your donor at the same time, usually in side-by-side rooms. One surgeon will remove the kidney from the donor, while another prepares you to receive the donated kidney.

When Can I Return To My Regular Activities

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You can resume your previous activities as soon as you feel better and you might even feel good enough to add some new activities. A daily exercise program will continue to improve your health and help you maintain a positive attitude.

You will not injure yourself or your new kidney if you follow some of these general guidelines:

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects and strenuous physical work for at least six to eight weeks following surgery. It is important that you do not lift anything heavier than 20 pounds for two to three months, and nothing heavier than 40 pounds for four to six months from the date of your surgery.
  • Avoid driving for at least six weeks following surgery. Plan ahead so a friend or family member can help out during this time. When you are in a moving vehicle, always use your seat belt.
  • Exercise is encouraged. We recommend beginning with stretching exercises and walking. Other excellent exercises include jogging, hiking, bicycling, tennis, golf, swimming and aerobics. All of these can help you regain your strength and may be started gradually after your incision has healed.
  • As a general rule, rough contact sports should be avoided since they might cause injury to your transplanted kidney. If you have doubts about any activity, please ask the Transplant Team.

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Why Is Tissue Typing Necessary Before A Kidney Transplant

One of the first blood tests that are used to determine the tissue type of the patient and the potential donor is to check their matching and compatibility of the tissue. Each person has a different antigen on their tissues, except for identical twins.

The better the candidates the better the HLA match, as they have more chances of successful transplant over a longer period of time. As the DNA is inherited or passed down from the parents , they would have at least a 50 percent chance of matching with the child. Siblings are usually the best matches as they can be 100 percent match.

Unrelated donors are less likely to match at all, but they can also be tested. The best match is considered for the recipient when they have 12 out of 12 antigen matches with the donor, called a zero mismatch. All 12 markers could match even with an unrelated deceased donor organ if the patient has a very common HLA type.

Another blood test is to measure the antibodies to HLA. This test is conducted for the patient only and has to be frequently repeated, sometimes monthly, but it will depend upon the transplant program policy. HLA antibodies can harm the transplanted kidney. They may even increase or decrease over time, and therefore, must be measured at all stages waiting for a transplant, immediately before transplant surgery, and sometimes after the transplantation.

How Do I Know My New Kidney Is Working

Blood tests help you know your donor kidney is working. Before you leave the hospital, youll schedule an appointment at the transplant center to test your blood. The tests show how well your kidneys are removing wastes from your blood.

At first, youll need regular checkups and blood tests at the transplant center or from your doctor. As time goes on, youll have fewer checkups.

Your blood tests may show that your kidney is not removing wastes from your blood as well as it should. You also may have other symptoms that your body is rejecting your donor kidney. If you have these problems, your transplant surgeon or nephrologist may order a kidney biopsy.

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Reasons For A Kidney Transplant

A healthy human body has two kidneys that work together to filter blood and remove toxins from the body. The kidneys work to maintain the appropriate amount of fluid in the blood and also filter out excess salts, electrolytes, and minerals.

The kidneys make urine with these substances. Urine is then eliminated from the body, first by moving out of the kidneys through the ureters to collect in the bladder, then exiting the body through the urethra during urination.

Without working kidneys, water is not sufficiently eliminated. This can cause fluid overload, which makes it difficult to breathe and causes serious swelling throughout the body. It also puts significant stress on the heart.

When water builds up in the body, it causes disturbances in how much salt, potassium, magnesium, and other electrolytes remain in the blood. Such imbalances can cause issues with heart function and result in other serious complications.

If excess water build-up continues without treatment, it can lead to death. For people whose kidneys are no longer functioning well enough to support the needs of their body, dialysis or a kidney transplant can be life-saving.

Diseases and conditions that may result in end-stage kidney disease and warrant a kidney transplant include:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe anatomical problems of the urinary tract

Of American kidney disease patients, 650,000 have end-stage renal disease.

What Addition Information Should Women Know About The Recovery Process

How long does it take to get a kidney transplant?

Although fertility is not a problem, rejection or high blood pressure are both complications a woman might experience for at least one year after transplant surgery. Therefore, it is important to prevent a pregnancy during this time by using birth control.

Women who have a kidney transplant can have a healthy pregnancy later. Talk to the Transplant Team about the timing of your pregnancy after your transplant. Also, know the risks and make sure your obstetric provider is experienced in dealing with transplant patients.

A female transplant patient who becomes a new mother should not breastfeed her baby. The immunosuppressive medicines prescribed after transplantation can be passed through the mothers breast milk and can cause harm to the baby.

Female transplant patients should be sure to have a yearly Pap test and a mammogram. Immunosuppressive medicines could cause increased susceptibility to various types of cancer. Pap tests and mammograms are preventive measures that can help your healthcare providers detect any problems.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2019.


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Some Things That Might Happen During Your Kidney Transplant Surgery

If you have a peritoneal dialysis catheter, the surgical team will tell you when this will be removed.

When youre asleep, youll have plastic tubes inserted into your neck, arms and bladder. Before the operation, the surgical and anaesthetic teams will explain where the tubes will be placed.

What are the tubes for?

Small tubes are inserted into your arms to enable fluid and medications to be given to you during and after the surgery.

For most kidney transplant operations, youll also have a tube inserted into the veins in your neck so that stronger medications can be given, if needed. This also lets the team looking after you give you extra fluid, if needed.

A tube will be inserted into your bladder via the urethra. Most kidney transplant surgeons will also insert a larger plastic tube into the area around the kidney transplant to drain away any tissue fluid after the surgery.


Inserting tubes into you can lead to bleeding, infection, or damage to other structures such as blood vessels or nerves. These complications are very rare.

If the surgeon is happy with the blood flow through the kidney, they will then make a join between the tube that carries urine from the kidney to your bladder. Usually, a short piece of soft plastic tubing is placed inside the ureter, to help this small join to heal. This is taken out several weeks after the surgery using a simple procedure. After this, your groin and tummy muscles and skin are stitched back together.




Answers To Common Questions

The team looking after you is not able to contact living donors on your behalf. If you would like a kidney transplant from a living donor, you will need to talk to family and friends and ask if they are interested in giving you a kidney.

Your doctor can advise on ways to do this.

  • Living donors are often blood relatives. But they can also be a friend, family member, or partner
  • They do not need to be the same age, blood group or tissue type as you
  • Living donors must be aged 18 years or older, and be in good health

Yes. If you have a living donor but they have not yet finished all their tests , you can join the transplant waiting list for a deceased donor kidney.

However, usually once you have been given a date for your transplant operation from the living donor your name will be taken off the national waiting list.

If you are offered a deceased donor kidney but you have a potential living kidney donor who is close to completing their tests, you will need to discuss your options with your kidney transplant team. They will advise you on the best thing to do.

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Get Tested At A Transplant Center

At the transplant center, youll meet members of your transplant team. Youll have tests to make sure youre a good candidate for transplant.

Tests will include blood tests and tests to check your heart and other organsto make sure youre healthy enough for surgery. Some conditions or illnesses could make a transplant less likely to succeed, such as cancer that is not in remission, or current substance abuse.

Youll also have tests to check your mental and emotional health. The transplant team must be sure youre prepared to care for a transplanted kidney. Youll need to be able to understand and follow a schedule for taking the medicines you need after surgery.

In a process called cross-matching, the transplant team tests the donors blood against your blood to help predict whether your bodys immune system will accept or reject the new kidney.

If a family member or friend wants to donate a kidney and is a good match, that person will need a health exam to make sure he or she is healthy enough to be a donor. If you have a living donor, you dont need to be on a waiting list for a kidney and can schedule the surgery when its best for you, your donor, and your surgeon.

Testing and evaluation at the transplant center may take several visits over weeks to months.

How Does A Kidney Transplant Differ From Dialysis

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With dialysis treatment, a machine filters waste and extra fluid out of your blood the way your kidneys normally would. Many people undergo dialysis while awaiting a kidney transplant.

Dialysis only filters the blood during a treatment session, not in the constant way a kidney does. For this reason, dialysis patients usually have diet and fluid restrictions. Dialysis also requires an access site a vein or an implanted device where the blood can be collected and filtered outside the body.

A kidney transplant is a surgical operation to give a functioning human kidney to someone whose kidneys have stopped working or are close to failing. The functioning kidney is removed from either a living donor or someone who has recently passed away.

A transplanted kidney performs all the functions of a kidney a person has from birth. It constantly filters blood for waste and excess fluid. Most kidney transplant recipients do not have to limit their diet and fluid intake, but they do need to take medicine on a daily basis to help keep their transplant functioning.

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Benefits And Risks Of Kidney Transplant

For people with kidney failure, a kidney transplant can increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life. Because dialysis can only do part of what healthy kidneys do for your body, people who have a kidney transplant usually live longer than those on dialysis. A kidney from a transplant will not work as well as kidneys in a healthy person. But your health may be almost as good as a person with healthy kidneys as long as you closely follow your doctors orders after the transplant surgery.

Also, when you get a kidney transplant, you may avoid some of the complications that people on dialysis often have, such as bone problems and heart disease.

A kidney transplant can improve your quality of life. After your kidney transplant, you may have:

  • More energy
  • Fewer limits on what you can eat
  • More free time from not having to go to dialysis
  • More flexibility to travel
  • Greater ability to work and hold a job

Risks with a kidney transplant are the same as with any major surgery. Risk does not mean these things will happen, it means they could happen. Some of the risks are infection, bleeding, or damage to other organs. Also, the three connections between your new kidney and your body the artery, vein, and ureter , might leak or become blocked. Read more about the kidney transplant surgery here.

What Is A Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a new kidney from a donor is transplanted into a recipients body. Kidneys play many important roles, but their main function is to filter waste products from the blood and removing them by producing urine which will be passed out of the body.

Medical condition such as kidney failure or end-stage renal disease is a condition in which the kidneys lose their ability to filter out the waste products. The build-up of the waste or toxic substances in the body can be potentially life-threatening. This is the most common reason for needing a kidney transplant.

Kidney failure patients are first recommended dialysis, a blood-filtering procedure that replicates the functions of the kidney. However, dialysis is time-consuming and can be inconvenient in the long term. The long-term and life-saving option kidney transplant can be a choice of treatment for kidney failure for some patients.

The surgeon places a healthy kidney from a donor, after or without removing the malfunctioning kidney during an operation. The donor can be a living person who is willing to donate a kidney or a deceased person .

A kidney transplant has several advantages over dialysis, including eliminating the dependency on regular visits to the clinic, improving the quality of life, increasing lifespan, and decreasing the various dietary restrictions that a person with kidney failure may have to follow.

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Why Would I Have A Surgical Drain After Surgery

Sometimes during surgery, the surgeon will place a surgical drain in your abdomen. After surgery, there is a continued oozing of body fluids at the surgical site. The drain helps by removing this extra fluid and allowing your body to heal faster. The surgeons will decide when the drain can be removed. Typically, drains are kept in seven to 10 days after the procedure, or when the output is 30 to 50 ml in a 24-hour period. If you do have a drain, you will be taught about caring for the drain before you leave the hospital.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2019.



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