What is a kidney transplant?
Kidney Transplant Recipient
Kidney transplant is the surgical procedure in which a kidney from a donor is placed in the body of a patient who has irreversible kidney failure. More than 1,900 kidney transplants have been performed successfully at the University of Kentucky over the past 42 years. For some patients, this procedure offers the opportunity for a healthier quality of life. However, a kidney transplant is not for everyone.
Our goal is to help you and your family learn more about kidney transplantation and begin the decision-making process. We encourage you to contact the Kidney Transplant Office with additional questions.
Am I a candidate for kidney transplant?
Most patients with irreversible kidney failure are potential candidates for kidney transplant. Overall health and well-being are important. For example, you must have stable heart and lung function in order to safely withstand the surgical procedure. Your medical history, including previous transplants, smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, and difficulty in following medical advice will also affect your possibility for transplant. All of these issues are considered for each patient to ensure that the best decision is made.
Since transplant requires a lifelong commitment to taking medication and to having regular physician contact, patients also must understand and be willing to accept this responsibility.
Is there a kidney available for me?
Only human kidneys can be transplanted into humans, so each kidney transplant involves a donated kidney. The two types of kidney donors are living kidney donors and cadaveric donors.
Living kidney donors - A living blood relative or close friend not related by blood may choose to have one of their two kidneys removed for transplantation. The donor and recipient must have compatible tissue and blood types, so not all relatives or friends will be candidates for donation. If a compatible match is found in a relative or friend, the recipient will have a better long-term survival rate with a living donor kidney than a cadaveric donation. For the donor, this process does involve some risk, as with any surgery. However, the donor's remaining kidney will grow until it is able to do the work of two kidneys. Living donors have a normal life span and have no restrictions on their lifestyle and activities as a result of the donation. UK HealthCare performs living donor kidney transplants and took a pioneering role in laparoscopic kidney donation.
Cadaveric donor - A cadaveric donor is a person with irreversible brain damage who has been declared brain-dead and whose family has agreed to donate the organs for transplantation. The distribution of cadaveric donor kidneys is managed by regional organ banks, all of which are closely regulated by the United States government. Potential recipients are registered on both national and regional waiting lists. Recipients for donor kidneys are selected based on the closest tissue and blood type match, as well as length of time on the waiting list. There are many issues to consider in determining the best donor option for you. The transplant team will work with you in evaluating all aspects of each option, including consideration of your medical situation and tissue compatibility needs.
Patients referred to our Transplant Center undergo a complete medical assessment specific to their needs. This assessment may include:
- Laboratory tests
- Cardiac evaluation, including EKG
- Urologic screening studies
- Pulmonary function tests
- Noninvasive vascular studies
- GI workup
- Abdominal imaging
Patients are also screened for anticipated compliance, support system availability and emotional stability. Financial coverage for the transplant and aftercare is also confirmed.
The success of kidney transplant depends on your condition going into surgery and the type of donor you receive for your transplant. If you are in fairly good health, your chances for a successful outcome within 30 days are between 90 and 95 percent for a cadaveric donor and 92 and 96 percent for a living donor. Patients who are critically ill have lower chances for a good outcome.
Overall, the chance of living one year after kidney transplantation is 85 to 90 percent for a cadaveric donor and 90 to 95 percent for a living donor. After the first year, patients who consistently take their medication and visit their physician should continue to enjoy the benefits of transplant for a long time.
The transplant team
Roberto Gedaly, MD, is the director of the UK HealthCare Transplant Center's renal transplant program, and Thomas H. Waid, MD, is the medical director.
The transplant team consists of doctors, nurses, social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, financial counselors and other health care professionals working together to care for you throughout the transplant process.
For a listing of other members of the transplant teams, please go to the main University of Kentucky employee directory »
Cost and payment
The costs associated with transplantation, both for the procedure and for post-transplant care, can be a source of concern for potential recipients. There are a number of ways to cover the cost of a transplant, including private insurance, Medicare coverage, Medicaid, advocacy organizations and fundraising. A financial counselor is available at the UK HealthCare Transplant Center to help you determine the resources available for you. It is important to discuss these issues prior to surgery. You can reach the finance counselor for transplantation by calling 859-323-9347.
We encourage you to learn as much as possible about all aspects of the kidney transplant process. To learn more about the UK HealthCare Kidney Transplant Program, please call toll free 1-866-474-6544 or locally, 859-323-6544, to speak to a member of the transplant team.
See a list of online transplant resources »
Organ Failure and Transplantation Network
UK Transplant Center created the Organ Failure and Transplantation Network with the goal of working with local physicians to provide the latest advancements in the treatment of end stage kidney failure.
Learn more »
Kidney Disease Support and Information
American Association of Kidney Patients
Home Dialysis Central
National Kidney and Urology Diseases Information Clearinghouse
National Kidney Foundation