What happens during a kidney transplant procedure?

A kidney transplant is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the groin area where the new kidney is placed. Blood vessels of the new kidney are sewn to your blood vessels, and the ureter from the transplant kidney is connected to your bladder. Unless your own native kidneys are causing trouble with pain, infections or high blood pressure, they are left in place and not removed.

Dr. Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

During a kidney transplant, the failed kidneys are usually not removed unless kidney cancer is present or the kidneys are very large due to polycystic kidney disease. The new kidney is positioned lower in the abdomen and connected to the bladder and major blood vessels.

The operation usually lasts three to four hours, and patients remain in the hospital for postoperative care and monitoring for four to five days. After a transplant has been performed, the patient needs a strong support network of family and friends who can help with transportation to follow-up appointments and ensure that the patient is taking his or her medications correctly.

Once the recipient of a kidney transplant is under anesthesia, an incision is made in the lower abdomen. The donor kidney is placed in the abdomen and connected to the pelvic blood vessel. The kidney transplant procedure takes approximately two to four hours.

After surgery, kidney transplant recipients go to a surgical recovery room.

The donor kidney is implanted through an open incision in the recipient's lower abdomen, and the transplant kidney is usually placed on the right side of the abdomen. The patient's native kidneys are usually left in place, unless they have a disease such as polycystic kidney disease and experience symptoms such as pain, infection or gastrointestinal symptoms. The transplant surgery usually takes two to three hours and then the patient spends several hours in the recovery room. The majority of patients are then transferred directly to the transplant unit where they spend the rest of their time up until discharge. Kidney transplant patients will all have a foley catheter placed during the surgery to help drain urine from the body; the catheter is removed prior to discharge from the hospital.

During a kidney transplant procedure, a tube (Foley catheter) will be placed in the recipient's bladder after he or she is asleep in the operating room. This is used to drain urine and keep the bladder empty so that it can heal. The Foley catheter will stay in for four to five days. Also, an intravenous (IV) line will be placed in the arm and neck. These may remain in place for a few days until the recipient can eat or until all the medications are given.

An incision will be made in the lower front half of the abdomen on either the right or left side. This is not where the kidneys are located, so they will not be disturbed. The new kidney will be connected to the recipient's own blood vessels and bladder.

The doctors will inform family members when the operation is over and the recipient will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU).

A kidney transplant operation lasts about four hours.

Continue Learning about Kidney Transplant

Organ Donations on the Rise in the U.S.
Organ Donations on the Rise in the U.S.
When Nurse Jackie (Edie Falco) -- from the Showtime original series by the same name -- a married mother of two, was shagging her hospital’s pharmacol...
Read More
What should I know about Prograf before taking it?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Share your entire medical history with your doctor before taking Prograf, which can damage the kidne...
More Answers
What medications are given after a kidney transplant?
Methodist Specialty and Transplant HospitalMethodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital
After a kidney transplant the recipient will be on immunosuppressive medication for the life of the ...
More Answers
How Can a Multiple-Person Kidney Swap Be Achieved?
How Can a Multiple-Person Kidney Swap Be Achieved?

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.