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Life After Kidney Transplant

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A kidney transplant is a surgical technique that replaces the functions of the deceased kidney and restores kidney function. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Parry

Published At October 19, 2022
Reviewed AtOctober 19, 2022

What Is a Kidney Transplant?

The main function of the kidneys is to filter the blood to remove waste products and convert them into urine. When the kidneys fail to filter the blood, waste products build up in the blood and can cause a life-threatening condition. The impairment of kidney function is known as chronic kidney disease, which eventually ends in end-stage renal disease or kidney failure. In order to carry on life dialysis, a kidney transplant needs to be done. Dialysis is an artificial filtering procedure to substitute the function of the kidney. But it is inconvenient and time-consuming, so a kidney transplant is the treatment of choice for kidney failure.

A kidney transplant is an operative procedure in which a donated kidney is placed in the lower abdomen without removing the original kidneys from the body. The ectopic position of the transplanted kidney is near the urinary bladder. This transplanted kidney is then connected to the urinary bladder. The new kidney then starts to perform the function as normally as the original kidneys. It starts working right after the surgery if it is from a living donor, or it can require two to four weeks to work if it is from a deceased donor.

What Are the Steps After a Kidney Transplant?

Hospitalization for several weeks to a month is required after a kidney transplant surgery. First, the physician makes sure that the transplanted kidney has started to function. If the kidneys have not started working, then dialysis is continued until it starts to function. Anti-rejection drugs need to be taken in order to decrease the risk of rejection of the transplanted kidney. The anti-rejection drugs, also called immunosuppressants, include anti-inflammatory drugs like Prednisolone, cytokine inhibitors, Anti-proliferative, and Anti-lymphocyte drugs. Without immunosuppressive drugs, the immune system can treat the donor kidney as foreign and attack the new kidney. Along with immunosuppressive medications, antibiotics to protect against infections need to be taken.

What Are the Measures to Be Taken After a Kidney Transplant?

  • Many people with a kidney transplant feel much better right after kidney transplant surgery. Whereas some people need hospitalization for several days more than required if any problem arises.

  • Regular follow-up visits with the physician after completion of hospitalization are required.

  • Before leaving the hospital, all the instructions and medications need to be followed. Anti-rejection medicine or immunosuppressants need to be taken to prevent the rejection of the transplanted kidney.

  • Blood tests are done before leaving the hospital to know if the kidneys are working.

What Is Life With a Kidney Transplant?

It is very important to have a healthy lifestyle after a kidney transplant in order to minimize the risk of complications. Therefore, it is recommended to quit habits of smoking and drinking alcohol, eat a healthy diet, decrease weight if overweight or obese, and take steps to reduce the risk of developing infections.

  • Quit Smoking and Drinking Alcohol - It is strongly recommended to stop smoking and consuming alcohol to reduce the risk of the life of the transplanted kidney.

  • Diet - During the early stages after a transplant, while high doses of immunosuppressant drugs are to be taken, eating food such as unpasteurized cheese, milk or yogurt, raw eggs, undercooked raw meat, and fish should be avoided.

  • Weight Loss and Exercise - Regular physical activity should be resumed after recovery from the surgery. Any physical activity that can increase breathing rate and heart rate should be followed. Examples include walking, riding a bike, swimming, and tennis.

  • Infections - Taking immunosuppressants for a long period of time can weaken the immune system and increase vulnerability to infections. Extra precautions need to be taken against chickenpox, flu, or any other bacterial infections. Vaccinations against viral infections like measles, mumps, and rubella can be taken.

  • Medical Attention - Medical advice should be taken within time if symptoms of any infections are to be found. Prompt treatment to prevent serious developing complications should be taken. Symptoms of infections can include fever, chills, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting.

What Are the Risks After a Kidney Transplant?

The risk of complications can be divided into short-term and long-term complications.

Short-Term Complications -

  • Infection - Minor infections such as flu and urinary tract infections are common after transplant surgery. Severe conditions include pneumonia and cytomegalovirus, which can require hospitalization.

  • Arterial Stenosis - Narrowing the artery connected to the transplanted kidney can occur after a kidney transplant. Arterial stenosis can cause high blood pressure.

  • Blood Clots - There are chances of the development of blood clots in the artery connected to the donated kidney.

  • Leakage of Urine - The urine can leak from the point where the unit of joints is the bladder after surgery. The fluid can build up in the bladder or can leak through the surgical incision.

Long-Term Complications -

  • Immunosuppressant Side Effects - Immunosuppressive drugs, after a long period of time, can weaken the body’s immunity and substantially increase the risk of developing infections. These can cause a variety of side effects, such as an increase in the risk of diabetes and infections, weight gain, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, swollen gums, thinning of the bones, mood swings, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

  • Diabetes - Diabetes develops after a kidney transplant either due to gaining too much weight or as a side effect of immunosuppressive drugs.

  • Hypertension - High blood pressure is a common complication of kidney transplant surgery. It can develop as a side-effect of immuno-suppressive drugs. It increases the risk of occurrence of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

  • Cancer - Prolonged use of immunosuppressants can increase the risk of cancer, such as skin cancer and lymphoma. Skin cancer can be avoided by applying sunscreen on the lips and exposed parts and avoiding sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.

Conclusion

A kidney transplant is a therapy for kidney failure; it is not a remedy. A person with a kidney transplant needs to take medicine to ensure the immune system does not reject the new kidney. A transplanted kidney works better for filtering waste products than dialysis. To undergo a kidney transplant, a healthy immune system and medically sound health are prerequisites. Acute rejection can be caused despite using immunosuppressants. It can be treated with a course of strong immunosuppressants.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Does a Person Live a Normal Life After Kidney Transplant?

A person usually starts living their everyday life at least 12 weeks after a kidney transplant. However, it mainly depends upon the kind of work a person does and their recovery time. Therefore, it varies from person to person.

2.

How Long Do People Live After a Kidney Transplant?

A person's life span after a kidney transplant mainly depends on the type of donor's kidney. If a person receives a deceased donor’s kidney, they may live only for 8 to 12 years; however, if the donor's kidney is living, it can function for 12 to 20 years on average.

3.

Does Life Get Shortened After a Kidney Transplant?

Living kidney donation does not alter the life expectancy of a person. On the contrary, people with kidney transplants live better and longer than those on dialysis. But kidney transplants cannot cure any kidney disease that may occur in the future.

4.

What Are the Disadvantages of Kidney Transplant?

Kidney transplants have various disadvantages, such as short-term complications like infections, formation of blood clots, arterial stenosis, and urine leakage. In addition, certain long-term complications may also occur, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and various immunosuppressant side effects.

5.

What Are the Things a Person Cannot Do After a Kidney Transplant?

A person should do the following things after a kidney transplant. These include:
- Avoiding alcohol consumption.
- Quitting smoking.
- Avoiding taking immunosuppressants for long as they can affect the immune system and makes a person prone to various infections.
- A person should consume a diet high in fiber and low in salt or sodium.
- Avoiding consuming illegal drugs post-kidney transplant.

6.

What Are the Causes of Death After a Kidney Transplant?

Cardiovascular diseases, infections or sepsis, blood clots, bleeding, and cancer are the most common causes of mortality after a kidney transplant.

7.

What Is the Best Age for a Kidney Transplant?

Kidney transplants are usually recommended in people suffering from end-stage renal disease. A person between the age of 45 to 65 years is usually considered eligible for a kidney transplant.

8.

Can a Person Live a Regular Life With One Kidney?

A person can live a regular everyday life with one kidney post-kidney donation. The remaining kidney is responsible for filtering the blood by increasing its size. The long-term health outcomes of kidney donors (living) are usually excellent.

9.

Does Kidney Transplant Cause Pain?

The pain or soreness can be felt at the incision site for a kidney transplant. However, the pain can subside in a few weeks, and a person can return to everyday life within 8 to 12 weeks after a kidney transplant.

10.

What Is the Mortality Rate for Kidney Transplants?

The mortality rate for a kidney transplant is almost 80 percent after five years. It usually depends on the treatment of kidney failure in a person. At the same time, people on dialysis have a life expectancy below 50 percent after five years.

11.

Can Kidney Transplant Fail?

Kidney transplants can fail due to chronic rejections in the person’s body receiving the transplant. Chronic rejections mainly occur due to long-term damage to a person's immune system due to various conditions in the body.

12.

Can a Person Get Both Kidneys Transplanted?

Getting both kidneys transplanted is a very rare condition. A person usually gets a kidney donation for one transplant. However, if a second kidney transplant is also needed, they may receive a deceased person’s kidney. The situation may also arise if there are familial conditions in the family.
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Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Parry
Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Parry

Nephrology

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kidney transplant surgery
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