Kidney Transplant

Living Well With Kidney Failure
Play a Video on this Topic

When kidneys fail, there are three treatment choices:

  1. hemodialysis,
  2. peritoneal dialysis
  3. kidney transplantation.

Many people feel that a successful kidney transplant provides a better quality of life because it may mean greater freedom, more energy and a less strict diet. In making a decision about whether this is the best treatment for you, you may find it helpful to talk to people who already have a kidney transplant. You also need to speak to your doctor, nurse and family members.

What is a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant is an operation in which a person with kidney failure receives a new kidney. The new kidney takes over the work of cleaning the blood.

Are there different kinds of kidney transplants?

Yes. There are two types of kidney transplants: those that come from living donors and those that come from unrelated donors who have died (non-living donors). A living donor may be someone in your family. It may also be your spouse or close friend. In some cases, it may be a stranger who wishes to donate a kidney to anyone in need of a transplant. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of kidney transplants.

How do I start the process of getting a kidney transplant?

Your doctor can tell you about the transplant process or send you to a transplant center for further evaluation.

How can I pay for my transplant?

Most private health insurance policies cover many costs related to kidney transplants, including medicines. In addition, most kidney transplant patients can apply for Medicare, which will cover 80 percent of the cost of the transplant surgery. After transplantation, you will need to take medicine to help stop rejection of your new kidney. Medicare Part B will cover 80 percent of the cost of these anti-rejection medicines, but not the cost of other medicines you may need. For most patients, this Medicare coverage will stop after 36 months. However, if you are eligible for Medicare coverage based on age or disability, the cost of your anti-rejection medicine may be covered for as long as you are on Medicare. The social worker or financial counselor at your transplant center should be able to answer questions about your coverage options.

What is rejection?

The most important problem that may happen after transplant is rejection of the kidney. The body's immune system guards against attack from anything foreign, such as bacteria. This defense system may recognize tissue transplanted from someone else as "foreign" and attack this "foreign invader."

You will need to take immunosuppressant medicine every day to prevent rejection of your new kidney. Anti-rejection medications have a large number of possible side effects because the body's immune defenses are suppressed.

What are the chances that a transplanted kidney will continue to function normally?

Results of transplants are getting better with new research. If a transplanted kidney fails, a second transplant may be a good choice for many patients.

Will I need to follow a special diet?

After a kidney transplant, you will need to follow a special diet.

What else can I do?

You should learn as much as you can by reading and talking to your healthcare team, as well as patients who already have kidney transplants.

Where can I get more information?

More information about kidney transplant can be found in our free brochure "Kidney Transplant." You can obtain a free copy by calling 1.855.NKF.CARES (653-2273).

If you would like more information, please contact us.

©2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.