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What is Involved in a Kidney Transplant Procedure?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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When the kidneys become damaged it can adversely affect the elimination of water and waste, the creation of red blood cells, and the regulation of blood pressure. In instances when damage is severe, a person may need to undergo a kidney transplant procedure that requires a stay in the hospital for less than a week. A kidney transplant procedure involves preparation, surgery, and recovery, as well as lifestyle changes. This major medical procedure provides a patient with a new organ that can allow her to maintain a full and healthy life.

Prior to a transplant, a physician will examine a patient to verify that the procedure would be productive. A patient may be evaluated over several days. During an evaluation, a doctor will perform blood tests, a chest X-ray, and a variety of heart tests. In addition, a patient will meet with endocrinologists and surgeons skilled in performing kidney transplants.

Just before the kidney transplant procedure, an individual will receive an enema or laxative to clean out his system to avert constipation upon waking up from surgery. Hair from the chest and abdomen will be removed to prevent any infections. An IV will be injected in the arm to keep a person hydrated. Also prior to the kidney transplant procedure, a patient will be given a sedative to help him relax and he will then be placed under general anesthesia to remain asleep during the operation.

Once a patient is asleep, a surgeon will cut an incision in his abdomen right above the groin. The donor's kidney will then be implanted into the abdomen and a tube through which urine flows will be connected to the patient's bladder. This allows for urine to travel normally through the transplanted kidney. Blood supply is reinstated to the implanted kidney by attaching the new organ to blood vessels responsible for providing blood to the lower extremities.

During the kidney transplant procedure, a drain may be needed to be put in or around the incision. Within 10 days after the operation, the drain will be removed. If the organ was donated by a live person, the implanted kidney should work right away. However, if it came from a cadaver, the kidney may take up to two weeks to work.

A person's stay in the hospital after the procedure may vary, depending on complications, but typically, a person will need to spend three to four days recovering in the hospital. Generally, within three days, a person can resume a normal diet. For days after the procedure, a patient will need a catheter in his bladder to empty urine. Dialysis may be needed to assist with removing extra fluid and toxins in the body until the kidney gets used to its new surroundings.

Once a patient is able to leave the hospital, he will need to see a doctor for follow-up appointments. Typically, a person will be assigned a nurse coordinator to answer questions and assist with regulation of medicines. After about six weeks, a person can usually resume normal activities. For the rest of his life, a person who underwent a kidney transplant procedure will need to take immunosuppressant medication to avoid rejection of the transplanted organ.

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