Treatments & Therapies

Kidney transplantation – treatment, effect and risks

Kidney transplant

kidney transplant is performed in patients who have little or no kidney activity, i.e. suffer from renal insufficiency . The advantages of a kidney transplant over dialysis (blood purification) are that a transplanted kidney enables the recipient to have a better quality of life and work better.

What is a kidney transplant?

The kidneys , two bean-shaped organs averaging 12 centimeters long on each side of the body below the rib cage, have the important job of filtering waste from the blood , turning it into urine, and excreting it.

If the kidneys lose this ability, waste products can build up in the body and cause poisoning (uraemia). If chronic kidney failure occurs, the patient is dependent on either regular dialysis or a kidney transplant .

A kidney transplant is the surgical transplanting of a healthy kidney from either a deceased brain-dead donor or a living healthy donor into the body of a recipient with kidney disease. The diseased kidneys are not removed and the donor kidney is implanted in the groin area of ​​the lower abdomen. A single kidney can take over the functions of both organs.

Kidneys from the deceased, known as post-mortem kidney donations, are allocated by the international placement center Eurotransplant. A new transplant kidney works like a healthy kidney, but often with a slight functional restriction.

Function, effect & goals

Patients with chronic renal failure requiring dialysis are eligible for a kidney transplant . Despite the risks associated with surgery, transplantation has been shown to extend the life expectancy of patients with chronic kidney disease.However, transplantation for patients over the age of seventy means much higher risks and is therefore only rarely performed in older people. An incurable cancer or other serious diseases or acute inflammation also speak against a kidney transplant.

Due to a lack of organs, there is often a year-long waiting period for a donor kidney. Children receive a waiting time bonus, and donor kidneys can usually be found more quickly for patients with more frequent blood types. If a suitable donor organ is available or if a suitable relative or person close to the patient is willing to make a living donation, the kidney transplant can take place. The operation, performed under general anesthesia , lasts between three and four hours. The donor kidney is implanted in the right or left lower abdomen, with its blood vessels being connected to veins and arteries in the pelvis to ensure optimal blood flow. The new kidney is connected to the urinary bladder to drain the urine .

After the procedure, to assess whether the kidney transplant was successful, the patient’s blood is checked for a reduction in creatinine and urea. If this is the case, it means that the body is being detoxified by the new kidney and urine output is going back to normal.

After a kidney transplant, a patient usually remains in the hospital for about two weeks, where immunosuppressive therapy is also started to prevent organ rejection. After discharge, follow-up examinations are initially carried out several times a week, during which various laboratory values ​​and the amount of urine are checked.

If it is ensured that the transplanted kidney takes over about half the function of two healthy kidneys, the kidney transplantation is considered successful. Nevertheless, regular follow-up examinations and strict adherence to immunosuppressive therapy are still necessary.

Risks & Dangers

Although kidney transplantation is now a relatively safe operation, there are risks for the patient, such as bleeding or cardiac arrhythmias , as with any surgical procedure , and after the operation there is a risk of reduced blood flow in the leg on the transplant side or adhesions in the abdomen.After a kidney transplant, there is always a lifetime risk of rejection of the transplanted kidney. After a kidney transplant, every patient is forced to take immunosuppressive (immune suppressive) drugs for the rest of their life to prevent organ rejection. Despite everything, intolerance reactions to the foreign organ cannot always be avoided. Infection or chronic failure of the transplanted kidney can also occur.

Taking medication for immunosuppression has serious side effects, including a general immune deficiency , a generally increased risk of infection , e.g. the risk of developing pneumonia , and an increased long-term risk of developing cancer – especially certain forms of skin cancer or lymph gland cancer . The functionality of the transplanted kidney deteriorates over the years, with living donor kidneys functioning significantly longer than postmortem kidney donations.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.