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What is a kidney transplant?

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is the surgical placement of a donor kidney to take over the work of damaged or diseased kidneys. It is a treatment for end-stage kidney disease and other severe kidney conditions. Kidney transplantation is a life-saving surgery used when all other medical and surgical options have failed. 

A kidney transplant is a major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a kidney transplant.

Types of kidney transplant 

The types of kidney transplant surgery include:

  • Deceased donor transplant uses a healthy kidney from a person who has just died or who is brain-dead to take over the work of a damaged or diseased recipient’s kidneys.
  • Living donor transplant uses a live person’s kidney to take over the work of a damaged or diseased recipient’s kidneys. A person who donates a kidney can live a normal life with one healthy kidney to meet their body’s needs. Living donors are usually a family member or close friend of the recipient. 

Other procedures that may be performed 

Diseases that cause serious damage to the kidney can also cause serious damage to other organs, including the liver, lung and heart. Another organ may be transplanted during a kidney transplant in rare cases. Your doctor and transplant care team will determine if a combination transplant procedure is right for you.

Other transplant surgeries include:

  • Heart transplant replaces a diseased or damaged heart with a donor heart.
  • Liver transplant replaces a diseased or damaged liver with a donor liver.
  • Lung transplant replaces a diseased or damaged lung with a donor lung.
  • Pancreas transplant replaces a diseased pancreas with a donor pancreas. This is the most commonly performed with a kidney transplant.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

Facts About Kidney Transplantation. American Society of Transplantation. http://www.a-s-t.org/sites/default/files/legacy_pdfs/patient_education/english/AST_GettinganExpDonKidney_ENG.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Getting a New Kidney. American Society of Transplantation. http://www.a-s-t.org/sites/default/files/legacy_pdfs/patient_education/english/Getting_a_New_Kidney.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Health after Transplantation. American Society of Transplantation. http://www.healthytransplant.com/health_maintenance/health_after_transplantation.aspx. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Kidney Transplantation. National Kidney Foundation. http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneytransnewlease.cfm. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Learn About Kidney Transplants. Emory Healthcare. http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-kidney/learn-about/index.html. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure: Transplantation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/transplant/. Accessed June 12, 2013.

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