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What is a Kidney Transplant?

Kidney transplant from the donor to the recipient
Kidney transplant from the donor to the recipient

A kidney transplant is one of the most common organ transplant surgeries performed today. In this surgery, kidneys that aren't working well are replaced by a kidney from a donor. Kidney transplants have been performed since the 1950s. This surgery is a lifesaving choice for thousands of patients with end-stage kidney disease. If you have kidney failure and cannot have a transplant, dialysis can sustain life. Dialysis cleans the blood by removing waste products such as urea.

How Do Kidneys Work?

Female Urinary Tract
Female Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Male Urinary Tract
Male Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

The kidneys are fist-size organs that handle the body's fluid and chemical levels. They are found on both sides of the spine behind the liver, stomach, pancreas and bowels. Healthy kidneys clean waste from the blood and make urine. They keep elements in the blood (sodium, potassium and calcium) in balance. Kidneys also make hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cells.

What Happens When Kidneys Fail?

Harmful waste builds up in the body, which leads to:

  • high blood pressure
  • fluid buildup (edema)
  • salts and acids in the blood getting out of balance
  • decreased red blood cells
  • weak bones

All of these can be harmful, even deadly, to the heart, brain and skeleton.