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Possible problems after a transplant

Although a transplant is an excellent treatment for most people with kidney failure, transplantation is not problem-free. Most of the complications are due to two factors. First, many people having a transplant have health problems in addition to kidney failure. These can include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or other complications of being on dialysis. Secondly, the body recognises a transplant as an invader, in the same way it would recognise a germ. This means that the body will try to destroy the transplant, and this is what is called rejection. Rejection can be prevented by drugs, but all these drugs interfere with the good things the immune system does, as well as preventing rejection. Therefore, infections and cancers occur as side effects. In addition, the anti-rejection drugs cause complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. All these can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Research is being done all over the world to try and develop anti-rejection treatments that do not cause all these complications, but this research has not been fully successful yet. Having said that, the drugs available now are better than a few years ago and the numbers of complications that occur have been reduced markedly.

Risk of dying after a transplant

Within one year of any transplant a small percentage of people die, about 3% (three out of one hundred) in most units. However, this is no greater than the percentage that would have died if they had remained on dialysis. Long term survival depends very much on not getting heart problems and cancer. There are increasing numbers of people who have had a functioning transplant for over 20 years and who are very well. However, on average, about 70% (seven out of ten) transplant recipients are alive ten years after a transplant.

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.

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