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What to expect in the lead up to having a kidney transplant

You will have been under the care of your local consultant in renal medicine and the time has come to consider the option for kidney transplantation. How will this choice be made? What will happen if the decision is taken to go ahead?

The choice to undergo kidney transplantation is based on two main issues:

  • First, you must be physical fit to undergo an operation under general anaesthetic.
  • Second, you must be willing to understand and accept the consequences and risks of having a kidney transplant.

Transplant Assessment Clinic

You will be referred to the South West Transplant Assessment Clinic where a consultant in renal medicine and transplant surgery will discuss these issues with you in detail and emphasise what he/she thinks are of particular importance in your case.

Make a list of any questions that either you or your friends and relatives have about kidney transplant and make sure you understand the doctor’s (or the nurse specialist’s) answers. It is very important that you understand what you are letting yourself in for and that you are geared up for the consequences. Always remember though that kidney transplantation is commonplace nowadays and the chances of success are very high.

A successful transplant can remove the need for dialysis, enable you to eat and drink mostly what you like, improve your sex life, increase your fertility, make you feel fit and well and enable you to get on with your life at home and at work.

Are you physically fit?

In general, if you are not grossly overweight and you do not suffer from heart disease or lung disease, you should be fit for a major operation under general anaesthetic. If you do have any of these problems, it is likely that you will need to undergo some tests, which your consultant will organise. It may be possible for you to improve your fitness, for example by weight reduction. More information can be read in the South West Transplant Centre brochure. If you would like a copy, please call Linda Boorer Transplant Nurse Specialist Tel 01752 763438.

What are the risks of having a kidney transplant?

There are risks from any surgical procedure and some special risks related to kidney transplantation.

  • Surgical complications may happen in up to 10% cases but can usually be treated so that full recovery occurs. Very rarely (about 1% cases), a patient will lose his or her life from a major complication.
  • The new kidney may not work properly to start with and you may need to continue with dialysis until it picks up.
  • Urine from the new kidney may fail to pass into the bladder, which is likely to necessitate another operation.
  • If the new kidney fails altogether (less than 10% cases) it is likely that it would have to be removed. You would be reassessed for another transplant and go back to treatment by dialysis meanwhile.

Having weighed up all the pros and cons, the next step is to decide which pathway you are going to follow, the pathway to receive a kidney from a deceased donor or the pathway to receive a kidney from a living donor.

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