A kidney transplant is a surgery done to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy kidney from a donor. The kidney may come from a deceased organ donor or from a living donor. Family members or others who are a good match may be able to donate one of their kidneys. This type of transplant is called a living transplant. 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. The transplanted kidney is placed in the lower abdomen on the front side of the body.
The transplant surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The operation usually takes 2-4 hours. This type of operation is a heterotopic transplant meaning the kidney is placed in a different location than the existing kidneys. (Liver and heart transplants are orthotopic transplants, in which the diseased organ is removed and the transplanted organ is placed in the same location.) The kidney transplant is placed in the front (anterior) part of the lower abdomen, in the pelvis.
The original kidneys are not usually removed unless they are causing severe problems such as uncontrollable high blood pressure, frequent kidney infections, or are greatly enlarged. The artery that carries blood to the kidney and the vein that carries blood away is surgically connected to the artery and vein already existing in the pelvis of the recipient. The ureter, or tube, that carries urine from the kidney is connected to the bladder. Recovery in the hospital is usually 3-7 days.
Complications can occur with any surgery. The following complications do not occur often but can include:
- Bleeding, infection, or wound healing problems.
- Difficulty with blood circulation to the kidney or problem with flow of urine from the kidney.
These complications may require another operation to correct them.