Adult Kidney Transplant
A kidney (renal) transplant is surgery in which a healthy kidney from a donor is placed into your body and takes over the job of filtering your blood. The donor is a person who has just died or a living person, most often a family member.
If you don’t have a living donor who can give you a kidney, your UMass Memorial transplant team will place you on a national waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains this waiting list.
The average wait time for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor is 3 to 5 years at most centers.
Who is eligible for a kidney transplant?
The UMass Memorial Medical Center Transplant Program uses these criteria as guidelines to help determine suitable candidates for a kidney transplant:
- You’ve been diagnosed with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
- You have a creatinine clearance rate of <20ml/minute
- You currently require dialysis or are approaching the need for dialysis
- You are stable psychologically
- You have a support system of family, friends or others to help provide care
- You have health insurance coverage (including for prescription medications) or adequate financial resources
If you’re otherwise healthy, age is not a factor in determining your transplant eligibility, but some conditions do rule out eligibility for a kidney transplant. These include:
- Irreversible cardiac (heart) disease
- Irreversible pulmonary (lung) disease
- Severe peripheral vascular disease
- Systemic infection at the time of transplant
- A history of cancer within the last 5 years
The evaluation process
To determine if you’re a candidate for a kidney transplant, the UMass Memorial transplant team will perform an initial workup that involves a health care assessment along with extensive lab and medical tests. You’ll also be scheduled to meet with a transplant surgeon and a kidney specialist (nephrologist).
Once you’ve completed the evaluation and testing process, the UMass Memorial transplant selection committee will review everything and make a final determination about your eligibility for a kidney transplant.
If you are determined to be a candidate—and you agree to move forward—your name will be placed on the national waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. At any time during the evaluation process or prior to transplant surgery you may decide—for any reason—that you no longer wish to be considered as a kidney transplant candidate, and you can refuse the transplant when offered.
Waiting for a donor organ
We understand that waiting for a donor organ can be an extremely stressful time. We have support networks in place, through our transplant social worker, including a monthly pre- and post-transplant support group to help you and your family navigate the transplant process.
These and other resources are available to you and your family at any time during the evaluation, wait listing, transplant and post-transplant period. Learn more about these support resources in our patient handbook.
When a donated organ becomes available
Once a deceased donor kidney becomes available, it must be transplanted within 24 to 30 hours. You’ll receive a phone call from the UMass Memorial transplant coordinator asking you to come to the University Campus of UMass Memorial Medical Center, often within hours, where a member of the transplant team will meet you and admit you to the hospital.
If you are receiving an organ from a living donor, your transplant surgery can be scheduled in advance, at a time that’s convenient for both of you.
What surgery involves
Once you’re admitted to the hospital, you (and your living donor, when appropriate) undergo additional tests to make sure you are ready for the transplant. If it’s a go, you (and your living donor) will undergo surgery; as the recipient, your procedure generally takes 1.5 to 3 hours.
Immediately after surgery, you’ll be taken to the intensive care unit where you’ll stay for 24 to 48 hours, then be transferred to a regular hospital room on a general surgical floor.
- If there are no complications, you can expect to be discharged from the hospital 4 to 5 days after surgery
- Your recovery period at home will take 4 to 6 weeks
- Most kidney transplant recipients are able to return to work in 8 to 12 weeks
- To reduce the risk of your body rejecting your new kidney, you will have to take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of your life
Ongoing follow-up care
A team of UMass Memorial doctors, including a kidney specialist, will be involved in your post-transplant care, which will include doctor visits and lab work on a periodic basis.
We understand that you still likely have many questions about transplantation. Please read our patient handbook online or request a hard copy. And don’t hesitate to call us any time at 508-334-2023 with questions or concerns.