A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure that’s done to treat kidney failure. The kidneys filter waste from the blood and remove it from the body through your urine. They also help maintain your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. If your kidneys stop working, waste builds up in your body and can make you very sick.
People whose kidneys have failed usually undergo a treatment called dialysis. This treatment mechanically filters waste that builds up in the bloodstream when the kidneys stop working.
Some people whose kidneys have failed may qualify for a kidney transplant. In this procedure, one or both kidneys are replaced with donor kidneys from a live or deceased person.
There are pros and cons to both dialysis and kidney transplants.
A kidney transplant can free you from a long-term dependence on a dialysis machine and the strict schedule that goes with it. This can allow you to live a more active life.
A kidney transplant may be an option if your kidneys have stopped working entirely. This condition is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). If you reach this point, your doctor is likely to recommend dialysis.
If you have a serious underlying medical condition, a kidney transplant might be dangerous or unlikely to be successful. These serious conditions include:
Type of Kidney Donors: Kidney donors may be either living or deceased.
During your evaluation for a transplant, you’ll have blood tests to determine your blood type (A, B, AB, or O) and your human leukocyte antigen (HLA). HLA is a group of antigens located on the surface of your white blood cells. Antigens are responsible for your body’s immune response.
If your HLA type matches the donor’s HLA type, it’s more likely that your body won’t reject the kidney. Each person has six antigens, three from each biological parent. The more antigens you have that match those of the donor, the greater the chance of a successful transplant.
Once a potential donor is identified, you’ll need another test to make sure that your antibodies won’t attack the donor’s organ. This is done by mixing a small amount of your blood with the donor’s blood.
The transplant can’t be done if your blood forms antibodies in response to the donor’s blood.
If your blood shows no antibody reaction, you have what’s called a “negative crossmatch.” This means that the transplant can proceed.