Dedicated transplant team for every step in the process
There are a number of steps involved in receiving a kidney transplant. Here we outline the kidney transplant process from initial evaluation to post-surgery. At Main Line Health’s Lankenau Medical Center, just minutes away from Philadelphia, we have a dedicated kidney transplant team to make this process as smooth as possible.
Even if you are not considered eligible for transplant at another center, you may contact Lankenau to be evaluated for a second opinion.
Initial evaluation by all members of our team
During your first visit, you will meet with a pre-transplant coordinator to determine if you are eligible for a transplant. The evaluation involves not only understanding your physical health, but also the psychosocial issues that may impact your ability to successfully handle a transplant.
During the evaluation process:
- The transplant nurse coordinator will obtain a complete personal history, and you will undergo a series of tests.
- You will have a meeting with the transplant surgeon and nephrologist who will perform an examination, review your history and answer your questions.
- A transplant social worker will assess your candidacy from a psychosocial standpoint.
- Later, you will be notified about your eligibility. Even if the team decides you are a good candidate for transplant, the final decision to proceed rests with you.
We also understand your dialysis commitment and can accommodate your schedule.
Medical testing to determine if you are a candidate
As discussed in kidney transplant basics you will need to undergo extensive testing, including blood tests, serum crossmatching, and HLA testing, in order to be matched with a suitable donor kidney. Depending on your insurance coverage and other factors, you may be able to begin testing on the day of your initial evaluation. The sooner you have completed all necessary testing, the sooner we can determine your eligibility for transplant.
We recommend completing your routine health maintenance screening, such as GYN visits and mammograms for women, and colonoscopies for all patients over age 50, prior to your evaluation appointment in order to expedite the evaluation process.
The sooner you have completed all necessary testing, the sooner we can determine your eligibility for transplant.
Getting listed on the kidney transplant list
If you are approved for a transplant, we will contact you by phone and by mail to confirm your placement on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant list and we will then provide further instructions.
While waiting for a kidney, you will have regular contact with your pre-transplant coordinator. You will also meet with our team once a year, and have testing as needed. The waiting period can range from several months to several years; there is no way to predict how long your wait will be. At our center, however, patients are transplanted at a faster rate than at other transplant centers in our local Organ Procurement Organization/Donor Service Area. Each time an organ becomes available, a process of matching begins in which a centralized system identifies and ranks the most ideal candidates for that kidney. While you are waiting, be sure to stay healthy and active.
Your kidney transplant
As soon as a suitable kidney is available, you will have kidney transplant surgery. If you are receiving a deceased donor kidney, you will have to be prepared to come to Lankenau Medical Center at any given time when we call you. If you are receiving a living donor kidney, the surgery will be scheduled in advance so you can plan ahead.
After your transplant
After surgery you will be taken to the recovery room or intensive care unit where you will be closely monitored for several hours. When your team feels you are ready, you will be moved to the transplant unit. While you are recovering, you will be closely monitored to be sure that you and your new kidney are doing well. You will be connected to a cardiac monitor for approximately 48 hours or until you are in stable condition.
If you receive a deceased donor kidney, your new kidney may be sluggish, and may not work well right away. If this is the case, you may need dialysis temporarily to help you feel well. If this is the case, most kidneys will begin to work within two weeks.
Your doctors may evaluate the function of the transplant kidney with a nuclear scan or a renal ultrasound. These tests may be done frequently during your hospital stay to help your doctor identify any collection or blockage so it can be treated immediately.
Going home after kidney transplant surgery
If all is going well, you may be discharged from the hospital in about four to seven days. Your post-transplant coordinator will help you prepare for your return home and provide you with information to help you through your recovery at home.
Because rejection and other problems usually occur in the first few months, your team will want to continue monitoring your progress and condition very closely. At first, you can expect to return frequently to the transplant clinic. These visits will become less frequent over time.
Medical problems of any nature must be called into the transplant office. A transplant nurse and physician are on-call 24 hours a day.
When you start feeling more like yourself, you can begin enjoying the social and professional activities that were not possible while you were on dialysis.
Medications after kidney transplant
To keep your body from rejecting (attacking) your new kidney, you will need to take drugs called immunosuppressants. You must take these drugs every day, as long as your new kidney is working. If you do not take these drugs you will lose the kidney. At the same time, immunosuppressants increase your risk of contracting infections or getting some forms of cancer. Many immunosuppressants also have side effects. While some patients experience a few side effects, others experience none at all.