How long does a kidney transplant last?


Although the newer generation of immunosuppressive drugs—cyclosporin A, for example—has improved the success rate during the initial rejection phase, the long-term survival of a functioning kidney is only around ten years because of ongoing rejection that chips away at the kidney's ability to perform adequately. Current immunosuppressive drugs also have side effects, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Kidney transplant recipients from living related donors have a lower mortality than recipients from deceased donors, probably because of a lower chance of rejection. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, in 2015, prognosis for 5-year survival for people who received kidney transplants in 2010 was as follows:

  • those who received a deceased-donor kidney, 86.8 percent
  • those who received a living-donor kidney, 93.5 percent
  • survival was lower in recipients age 65 years and older
  • survival was lower in recipients with diabetes as cause of kidney failure

Graft survival in kidney transplant depends on several factors such as immunological matching between recipient and donor, type of transplant (living donor vs. deceased donor), rejection episodes, use of certain antirejection drugs, infections in transplant and recurrence of certain diseases. In general, median survival (time in years at which 50 percent of grafts are functioning and 50 percent are not) for a deceased donor transplant is 8 to 10 years. The median survival for a living donor transplant is around 15 years.

Dr. Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

With the use of current immunosuppressive medications the risk of sudden kidney rejection is low, and if it occurs it can be treated very effectively. Kidney transplants last relatively long. Fifty percent of kidneys from a living donor still function after 16 to 20 years, and with organs from deceased donors, a transplanted kidney should last 8 to 10 years. Most people who have had a kidney transplant die with a functioning kidney—the cause of death is usually another disease or illness.

Continue Learning about Kidney Transplant

Kidney Transplant

One of the most common transplant procedures in the United States, kidney transplantation is a treatment option for those with advanced and permanent kidney failure. The first kidney transplant was performed in the 1950s, and sinc...

nce then doctors have learn much about minimizing the side effects of medications and how to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. Healthy kidneys remove wastes and excess fluids from blood, which balances out the chemicals in the blood and keep it clean. When the kidneys fail, the body is unable to remove the harmful wastes and they could damage the body. Kidney transplantation is not for everyone. Certain conditions make the procedure too dangerous or unlikely to be successful.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.