Table of Contents
Kidney transplant & COVID-19
Find answers about transplant during the COVID-19 outbreak on the What you need to know about COVID-19 in 2022 page.
What is a kidney transplant?
What is a kidney transplant?
When you get a kidney transplant, a healthy kidney is placed inside your body to do the work your own kidneys can no longer do. The healthy kidney can come from someone has died and chosen to donate, called a deceased donor, or from someone who has two healthy kidneys and chooses to donate one, called a living donor.
A successful kidney transplant may allow you to live longer and to live the kind of life you were living before you got kidney disease. For many patients, there are fewer limits on what you can eat and drink, though you should follow a heart-healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight to help your new kidney last. Your health and energy should also improve. Studies show that people with kidney transplants live longer than those who remain on dialysis.
Having a kidney transplant does not “cure” kidney disease. There are also risks, including the risks of surgery. After the transplant, you will need to take anti-rejection medicines for as long as your new kidney is working, which can have side effects. You will have a higher risk for infections and certain types of cancer.
Although most transplants are successful and last for many years, how long they last can vary from one person to the next. Depending on your age, many people will need more than one kidney transplant during a lifetime.
Looking for more info about kidney transplants?
Join our kidney transplant community for useful tips on finding a living donor, helpful online communities, and much more.
What is a “preemptive” or “early” transplant?
Who can get a kidney transplant?
Kidney patients of all ages—from children to seniors—are able to consider a transplant. For most people, getting a transplant can be a good treatment choice.
Every person being considered for transplant will complete a full medical and psychosocial evaluation at a transplant center to make sure they are a good candidate for transplant. The evaluation helps find any problems, so they can be corrected before transplant. You must be healthy enough to have the operation. You must also be free from cancer and infection.
What if I’m older or have other health problems?
In many cases, people who are older or have other health conditions like diabetes can still have successful kidney transplants. Careful evaluation at a transplant center is needed to understand and deal with any special risks. You may be asked to do some things that can lessen certain risks and improve the chances of a successful transplant. For example, you may be asked to lose weight or quit smoking. Only a transplant center can decide if you are healthy enough to receive a kidney transplant.
If you have diabetes, you may also be able to have a pancreas transplant. Ask your healthcare professional about getting a pancreas transplant along with a kidney transplant.
How will I pay for a transplant?
Medicare covers about 80% of the costs associated with an evaluation, transplant operation, follow-up care, and anti-rejection medicines. Private insurance through your job and state insurance programs may cover some costs as well. However, your post-transplant expenses may only be covered for a limited number of years. It’s important to discuss insurance coverage with your social worker and the transplant financial coordinator, who can answer your questions or direct you to others who can help. Click here to learn more about insurance and transplant.
Getting a Transplant
How do I start the process of getting a kidney transplant?
How does the evaluation process work?
The evaluation process for a transplant is very thorough. Your healthcare team will need to know a lot about you to help them—and you—decide if a transplant is right for you. Medical professionals will give you a complete physical exam, review your health records, and order a series of tests and X-rays to learn about your overall health. Everything that can affect how well you can handle a transplant will be checked.
One thing you can do to speed the process is to get all the testing done as quickly as possible and stay in close contact with the transplant team. If you’re told you might not be right for a transplant, don’t be afraid to ask why. You can also consider doing an evaluation at another center if one center says no. Remember, being active in your own care is one of the best ways to stay healthy.
If someone you know would like to donate a kidney to you, that person will also need to go through a screening evaluation to find out if he or she is healthy enough to donate.
If it’s your child who has kidney disease, transplant can be the best treatment for them. Transplantation allows children and young adults to develop in as normal a way as possible in their formative years. If your child has kidney disease, you’ll want to give serious thought to getting a transplant evaluation for him or her.
If the evaluation process shows that a transplant is right for you or your child, the next step is getting a suitable kidney. (See "Finding a Kidney" below.)
What happens during kidney transplant surgery?
After surgery, you’ll be taught about the medicines you’ll have to take and their side effects. You’ll also learn about how your diet may change after transplant. If you’ve been on dialysis, you’ll find that there are fewer restrictions on what you can eat and drink, which is one of the benefits of a transplant. You will want to eat a healthy diet and exercise to take good care of your body and your new kidney.
What are anti-rejection medicines?
Finding a Kidney
Where do donated kidneys come from?
How do I get a kidney from a deceased donor?
How do I get a kidney from a living donor?
Are there downsides to living donation?
What are the financial costs to the living donor?
What else can I do?
After Your Transplant
What happens after I go home?
What if my body tries to reject the new kidney?
How often does rejection happen?
When can I return to work?