What is Renal Transplantation?
Renal transplantation is more commonly known as kidney transplantation. It is a surgical procedure done to treat kidney failure. The human kidneys play an important role in producing urine and removing waste products from our bodies. They also help to maintain our body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. If damage to our kidneys can lead to waste building up in our bodies ultimately making us very sick.
Those whose kidneys fail usually have to undergo a treatment process called dialysis. In this treatment, the waste that builds up in the bloodstream is mechanically filtered when the kidneys stop working. There are also some people whose kidneys fail and may have to undergo a kidney transplant. In the process of kidney transplantation, one or both kidneys are replaced with donor kidneys from either a live person or a deceased person.
A major advantage of kidney transplants for those whose kidneys have failed is that it can free you from the dependence of long term dialysis. While on dialysis, one has to depend on a dialysis machine and the strict schedule that comes along with it. With a kidney transplant, one can have a more active lifestyle. However, it is also to be kept in mind that a kidney transplant may not be suitable for everyone especially those with active infections and those who are extremely overweight.
Who might need a Renal Transplantation?
A kidney transplant may be an option for those whose kidneys have stopped working entirely. This condition is termed as End-Stage Renal Disease or End-Stage Kidney Disease. For those who reach this point may be recommended to get dialysis by their doctors. In addition to the dialysis treatment, your doctor will also let you know if you qualify as a candidate for a kidney transplant.
To undergo a kidney transplant. You need to be healthy enough to undergo surgery and also be able to follow a lifelong medication regimen strictly post-surgery. You also need to listen to your doctor and follow his given instructions.
A kidney transplant may be a dangerous bet for you if you have conditions such as:
- Liver disease
- Severe cardiovascular disease
- Serious infections such as hepatitis or tuberculosis
- Cancer or a recent history of cancer
You may also be asked to not go for a transplant if you smoke, drink alcohol excessively, or use illicit drugs.
To undergo a kidney transplant, you will have to be evaluated at a transplant center. The evaluation for kidney transplantation comprises assessing your physical, psychological, and familial conditions. You will also have to get a urine and blood test. After the complete assessment, you will know if you’re healthy enough to go surgery.
Once you’re approved for a kidney transplant, either your family member/friend can donate a kidney or you’ll be placed on the Organ Donation waiting list.
Who can donate the kidney?
Donors of the kidney can be either living or deceased.
Living Donors: As our human body can function perfectly even with just one healthy kidney, any person with two healthy kidneys can choose to donate one of them to the person in need. For successful transplantation to take place, the blood and tissues of the donor should match with the blood and tissues of the person undergoing kidney transplantation.
Kidney donation from a family member is a good option as it reduces the risk of your body rejecting the kidney. It also enables you to bypass the waiting list for a deceased donor.
Deceased Donors: Also known as cadaver donors, these people are those who have died as a result of an accident and not a disease. In their case, either the deceased donor or their family has chosen to donate their organs and tissues.
Bodies are more likely to reject a kidney from an unrelated donor than a related donor. However, a deceased donor is a good option for those who don’t have a family member willing to donate.
How is Renal Transplantation performed?
If you are receiving a kidney from a living donor, your doctor can schedule your transplant in advance but if you’re waiting for a deceased donor with a close match of your tissue type, you will have to be available to rush to the hospital the moment a donor is identified.
After reaching the transplant center, you will need to give a blood sample for an antibody test. If the result is a negative crossmatch, you’ll be cleared for surgery.
Kidney transplantation is performed under general anesthesia. General Anesthesia is a medicine that puts you to sleep during surgery. This anesthetic will be injected into your body through an intravenous line in your hand or arm.
Once you’re asleep, the doctor will make an incision in your abdomen and place the donor kidney inside. They will then connect the arteries and veins from the kidney to your arteries and veins. This will help the blood to start flowing through the new kidney.
The doctor will also attach the new kidney’s ureter (the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder) to your bladder to facilitate normal urination. Unless your original kidneys are creating problems such as high blood pressure or infection, the doctor will leave them in your body.
What about the aftercare for Renal Transplantation?
After the surgery renal transplantation is done, you will be monitored for your vital signs until you are awake and more importantly stable. You will be required to stay in the hospital for a week irrespective of whether you feel good healthwise or not.
Your new kidney may immediately start to clear waste or may take a couple of weeks before it starts functioning. Kidneys donated by a family member usually start to work more quickly than those of a cadaver donor.
You will also experience pain and soreness around the incision site while you are healing. You will also be monitored for complications and put on a strict schedule of immunosuppressant drugs to stop your body from rejecting the new kidney.
Before you can leave the hospital, you will be given specific instructions on how and when to take your medicines. You will be given a checkup schedule for follow up after surgery. Your regular check-ups and appointments will be held to evaluate how well your new kidney is functioning. You will also need to monitor yourself for any warning signs such as pain, swelling, and flu-like symptoms. The total period will last up to six months.