A kidney transplant is surgery to replace your own diseased kidneys with a healthy (donor) kidney. See a picture of a kidney transplant. There are two types of donors:
- Living donors. A living donor may be a family member, a friend, a coworker or any person who is willing to give a kidney to someone in need. A person only needs one healthy kidney to live.
- Cadaver donors. A cadaver donor is someone who has recently died. Most donor kidneys come from this source.
In both cases, the key to success is having the closest possible blood and tissue matches. A family member is not always the best match.
You will need to have tests to make sure the donor kidney matches your tissue type and blood type. This helps reduce the chances that your body will reject the new kidney. You will also be evaluated to make sure that you do not have significant heart or lung disease or other diseases, such as cancer, which might decrease your life span.
Kidney transplant surgery takes about 3 hours. During surgery, the donor kidney will be placed in your lower abdomen, blood vessels from the donor kidney will be connected to arteries and veins in your body and the ureter from the donor kidney will be connected to your bladder. Blood is then able to flow through the new kidney, and the kidney will begin to filter and remove wastes and to produce urine.
The new kidney usually begins to function right away. In most cases, diseased or damaged kidneys are not removed unless you have a severe infection of the kidney (pyelonephritis), kidney cancer, nephrotic syndrome, or extremely large polycystic kidneys.
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