When your kidneys fail, treatment is needed to replace the work your own kidneys can no longer do. There are two types of treatment for kidney failure – dialysis or transplant. Many people feel that a kidney transplant offers more freedom and a better quality of life than dialysis. When you get a kidney transplant, a healthy kidney is placed inside your body to do the work your own kidneys can no longer do.
On the plus side, there are fewer limits on what you can eat and drink, but you should follow a heart-healthy diet. Your health and energy should improve. In fact, a successful kidney transplant may allow you to live the kind of life you were living before you got kidney disease. Studies show that people with kidney transplants live longer than those who remain on dialysis.
On the minus side, there are the risks of surgery. You will also need to take anti-rejection medicines for as long as your new kidney is working, which can have side effects. You will have a higher risk for infections and certain types of cancer.
Deciding about the Transplant
The evaluation process for a transplant is very thorough. Your healthcare team will need to know a lot about you to help them—and you—decide if a transplant is right for you. One thing you can do to speed the process is to get all the testing done as quickly as possible and stay in close contact with the transplant team. Remember, being active in your own care is one of the best ways to stay healthy. If someone you know would like to donate a kidney to you, that person will also need to go through a screening to find out if he or she is a match and healthy enough to donate.
If it’s your child who has kidney disease, you’ll want to give serious thought to getting a transplant evaluation for him or her. Because transplantation allows children and young adults to develop in as normal a way as possible in their formative years, it can be the best treatment for them.
Duration of Stay
10 days in the hospital, 45 days outside
You’ll be sore at first, but you should be out of bed in a day or so, and home within a week. If the kidney came from a living donor, it should start to work very quickly. A kidney from a deceased donor can take longer to start working—two to four weeks or more. If that happens, you may need dialysis until the kidney begins to work. After surgery, you’ll be taught about the medicines you’ll have to take and their side effects. You’ll also learn about diet.
Once you are home from the hospital, the most important work begins—the follow-up. For your transplant to be successful, you will have regular check-ups, especially during the first year. At first, you may need blood tests several times a week. After that, you’ll need fewer check-ups, but enough to make sure that your kidney is working well and that you have the right amount of anti-rejection medication in your body.
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