Kidney Korner: The Transplant Process

Did you know that dialysis isn’t the only option once you need to consider renal replacement therapy? Transplantation is also an option! Let’s break down what a transplant is, who qualifies, and how the process works. 

What is a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant is when a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor is placed in the abdomen alongside the failing kidneys. A kidney transplant does not cure kidney disease, but it may allow you to live longer and improve overall quality of life. 

Who qualifies for a kidney transplant?

Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) may initiate the process to be evaluated for a kidney transplant. You can begin the evaluation process for a transplant before you need dialysis, usually after you reach Stage 4 CKD. By starting the process early, you may be able to reduce your overall waiting time on the transplant list. 

How do I get placed on the transplant list?

To initiate the evaluation process, your medical history and insurance will be reviewed from a referral sent by your nephrologist to the facility of your choosing. If, after reviewing the preliminary insurance and medical records, you are found to be a candidate, additional testing will be ordered by the transplant center. 

These typically include but are not limited to:

  • Labs and Scans/Imaging
  • Heart and Lung testing
  • Head-to-toe assessment for cancers and other infections
  • Mental Health/Psychosocial Evaluation
  • Dietitian Consultations

After you have completed all the screenings, consultations, and testing assigned by the transplant center, your case will be moved to the center’s transplant committee to be reviewed and receive the final approval. Once approved by the transplant committee, you will become active on the transplant list and you have satisfied any additional requirements as communicated by the center, you will be active on the transplant list. It is important that you maintain your health status and update your care team with any new illnesses or hospitalizations, as these can affect your transplant list status. 

What happens after I get my transplant?

After you undergo your kidney transplant, you will be closely monitored by your transplant care team. This includes frequent lab work and examinations. Your ongoing and post-transplant care will be discussed and coordinated by the transplant center. 

Talk with your nephrologist to learn more and decide what works best for you. You have options. 

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