At their most basic definition of function, the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the bloodstream and excreting them from the body in the form of urine. The kidneys are also responsible for removing excess fluids from the blood and body. Damaged kidneys lose their ability to filter such fluids and wastes, which then accumulate in the body, causing multiple complications. Such situations are defined as kidney failure. While every individual has two kidneys, only one donated kidney is necessary to replace the function of two damaged kidneys. A person can survive and lead a relatively healthy life with only one fully functioning kidney.
Living-donor kidney transplantations are more common today, but donors must specifically match blood type as well as commonalities in order for such a transplant to be considers successful and worth pursuing. If an immediate donor, such as a family member, is not available, an individual is placed on a kidney transplant waiting list, which may take several months or even a year or more to find a suitable donor.
Anyone experiencing kidney failure caused by chronically and uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions that damage the kidneys may be suitable for a kidney transplant. Transplants are only considered after traditional management methods have been performed such as adaption of diet, treatments, and medications. In many cases, a kidney transplant is beneficial to an individual who may otherwise be facing a lifetime of dialysis treatments.
Prior to a transplant, a patient will be assessed for their overall general health and wellness, as well as their potential for enduring and overcoming possible complications of a kidney transplant. Other medical conditions that may otherwise hamper the success of a kidney transplant will be carefully assessed. An individual must also be knowledgeable, able and willing to take anti-rejection medications, possibly for the rest of their lives, to ensure that the new kidney is not rejected by the body.
After a patient has been matched with a likely donor, the patient will be alerted and expected at their hospital within 24 hours, sometimes less. There, the patient will be prepared for surgery. General anesthesiology is given, so that the patient is unconscious during the procedure, and won't feel any pain or discomfort.
Before, during and after the procedure, doctors, anesthetists and nursing staff will monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels. Once the patient is prepared and ready, the surgeon will make an incision in the lower abdominal cavity to access the kidneys. Even though a patient undergoes a kidney transplant, the damaged or dead kidney tissue remains in the body unless it (or they) is or are infected, or are the cause of medical complications and conditions such as high blood pressure.
The new kidneys blood vessels are attached to blood vessels that connect to the lower torso, and the ureter of the new donor kidney is connected to the patient's bladder. The entire procedure, from start to finish may last up to 5 hours.
Following the kidney transplant, an individual can expect a 3 to 5 day hospital stay. The doctors will watch for immediate production of urine, though in some cases, urine production may be delayed. The patient will be required to undergo close monitoring and checkups for the following 3 to 4 weeks. Individuals will then be advised on the drug treatment program of immunosuppressant medications they must follow to prevent their body's immune system from attacking their new kidney.
Surgeons who have completed general surgery requirements and training are eligible for organ transplant training and education. Accredited and certified surgeons should belong to the American Society of Transplant Surgeons in the U.S. or other similar organizations or boards in the surgeon’s country of origin. Always verify the education, training and experience of any surgeon who may perform surgery and make sure they are licensed to practice in the facility of your choice.
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