A kidney transplant is one of the most common organ transplant surgeries performed today. It is a lifesaving choice for thousands of patients with kidney failure.
About 30 percent of patients with kidney failure can have a kidney transplant. This surgery returns kidney function by replacing 2 failed kidneys with 1 healthy organ. About two-thirds of kidney transplants come from nonliving (deceased) donors. Living donors can donate safely if tests show that the donor will have nearly normal kidney function after giving up 1 kidney.
A kidney transplant is most often placed in the lower stomach without removing the failed kidneys. The artery and vein of the new kidney are joined to an artery and a vein in the pelvis next to the bladder. The ureter (the tube that drains urine from the kidney to the bladder) attached to the new kidney is joined to the bladder or to one of the ureters.
Ninety percent of transplanted kidneys work well at the end of one year. About 40 percent of kidney transplants stop working each year after that. The kidney may be at risk for rejection, so it is vital to take all the drugs as prescribed by the health care provider. A kidney from a living donor has a better chance of lasting than one from a nonliving donor. The chance that kidney disease will return in the transplant depends on why the kidneys failed in the first place.
H. Albin Gritsch, MD, FACS, is Associate Professor of Urology and Surgical Director, Kidney Transplant Program at UCLA Health in Los Angeles.