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Organ Donation and Transplantation - What is a kidney transplant?


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Key Points

  • A kidney transplant is the best treatment for kidney failure
  • Kidney transplants have been performed for over 50 years
  • Kidney transplants are not perfect/100 % successful, they may fail and there are side effects
  • Not everyone with kidney failure is suitable for a transplant

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A successful kidney transplant is a more effective treatment for kidney failure than either peritoneal dialysis or haemodialysis. However, not everyone is suitable for transplantation, and not everyone who is suitable is suitable all the time. Also, before a transplant can take place, it is necessary to find an appropriate donor kidney, which may not be easy.

The first kidney transplant operations were performed in the 1950s. The operation itself is straightforward, with a good success rate. After a transplant, patients will need to take drugs daily for the rest of their lives. If a transplant fails, patients can go back to dialysis or possibly have another transplant.

Not all kidneys work straight away kidneys can go to sleep(delayed graft function: DGF seen up-to 40%) and the transplant patient may need dialysis till the kidney transplant starts functioning.

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The benefits

A kidney transplant can deliver the best quality of life to people with established renal failure (ERF). There is no doubt that for the right person at the right time, a transplant is the best treatment option. A ‘good’ transplant provides about 50% of the function of two normal kidneys (compared with only about 5% from either type of dialysis)Dual kidney transplants: Sometimes a patient may be offered both kidneys from the same donor as each kidney alone is anticipated to be marginal and may not provide enough renal function by itself.

The most obvious advantage of a transplant to people with kidney failure is freedom from dialysis. If a transplant works well, dialysis becomes a thing of the past. There are also no particular fluid or dietary restrictions after a transplant. Most people who have had a transplant feel better and have more energy than they did on dialysis. They are more able to cope with a job and many find that their sex lives improve.

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Adapted from ‘Kidney Failure Explained’ by Janet Wild and Andrew Stein, published by Class Publishing.

The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.

NKF Controlled Document No. 252: What is a kidney transplant? written: 01/05/2000 last reviewed: 22/02/2019