There are many steps you need to take to prepare for a kidney transplant. First, you must have an evaluation by a transplant center to decide if you are ready for a kidney transplant. If the evaluation teams decide that you are ready, the next step is to find a compatible kidney, which your transplant team will help you with.
There are other things you need to prepare yourself, like paying for your transplant and paying for the medications you are going to take later. You will also have to prepare for the transplant surgery itself.
If your doctor thinks it might benefit you to have a kidney transplant, you can be referred to a transplant center, which is a hospital that performs organ transplants. Once you have found a transplant center, the first step is to have a transplant evaluation. During this evaluation, you will have blood tests, x-rays, and other tests to make sure that a transplant would be the best option for you.
Also, you will have to go to the transplant center to get the evaluation. You may be able to complete the evaluation in a day, or you may have to do it for several days.
On the day of your evaluation, you and your family will meet with members of the transplant team to learn about how to prepare for a kidney transplant; what to expect during the recovery period; what medications you will need to take, and more. Transplant team members will also need to learn about you.
You may have to answer questions about your finances, your support system, and your health insurance policy. You will also have tests that will help doctors learn about your kidneys and your overall health. These tests could include:
- Blood tests to determine your blood type.
- Tissue testing tests to learn about certain parts of your tissue that will need to match with your donor’s kidney.
- Testing for diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
- Prostate exam (for men).
- Mammography and Papanicolaou (for women).
- Heart and lung exams.
The transplant team will also make sure that you are in good mental health. You will meet with the transplant social worker to complete the evaluation.
If after completing the evaluation, the transplant team decides that you are ready for the transplant and you decide that you want a transplant, you can be added to the national waiting list of a kidney donor. If you have a living kidney donor, you can have your transplant as soon as you and your donor are ready.
The transplant team may decide that you are not ready for the transplant. This could happen if you have a health problem that could make transplant surgery dangerous for you. Some health problems can be treated so you can have your transplant. Other problems that may prevent you from having a transplant are:
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Mental illness.
- History of faults to treatment sessions or not taking medications.
- Not having a strong support system.
If your transplant team thinks you are not ready for the transplant, talk to them about what you can do to be ready.
If you have a living kidney donor, you can schedule the date of your transplant. You and your donor will have surgery in the same hospital the same day.
If you do not have a living donor and you are on the waiting list of a deceased donor kidney, you will not know when the surgery will occur. If a kidney is available, you will receive a phone call telling you to go to the hospital immediately. Once you arrive at the hospital, you will have a blood test to make sure that your body will not have a bad reaction to the donor’s blood. If the test does not show a problem, doctors and nurses will prepare you for surgery.
In most cases, kidney transplant surgery takes 3 to 4 hours. During surgery, you will be under general anesthesia, which means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain. Your new kidney will enter your body through a small cut in your lower abdomen.
You will need to stay in the hospital for about a week after the surgery to recover and make sure your new kidney is working well.
You may arrive at the hospital, ready for your transplant, only to discover that the donor’s kidney is not healthy enough to transplant it to you. If this happens, try not to be discouraged; another kidney may be available sooner than later!