Kidney Transplantation

A Guide for Patients

We have prepared this guide to answer many of the questions patients have about kidney transplant. Our care team wants you and your family to be thoroughly informed. If you would like to personally discuss any questions or concerns, you may call us at 951-275-9000. We will be glad to assist you.

Understanding Kidney Function

The kidneys are the body's filtering system, removing waste material from the blood and producing urine to eliminate those wastes from the body. These two hard working organs, located on either side of the spine, process more than 2,500 pints of blood each day when functioning normally. The kidneys also play an important role in controlling blood pressure. Hormones stimulate the kidneys to maintain an adequate amount of water in the blood to assure that blood pressure stays within normal ranges.

Treating Kidney Diseases

There are many diseases and disorders that affect the ability of the kidneys to adequately filter the body's blood supply. When this occurs, the blood can be cleansed through dialysis. While this mechanical process does effectively perform the kidneys' filtering function, over time dialysis can become a burden that affects the quality of life for patients and their families.

Kidney transplantation is an established treatment that has been very successful for patients with kidney disease. A successful kidney transplant can mean a return to an independent, productive lifestyle free of dialysis.

Finding a Kidney Donor

Kidneys for transplant may be provided by living donors, either related or unrelated to the patient. Organs also become available from individuals who have suddenly died.

The care team at the Southern California Transplantation Institute and Liver Center assists patients in registering with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and coordinates the procurement of organs when they become available. The waiting time to obtain a kidney for transplant from UNOS depends on several factors including the patient's blood type, the tissue match between patient and donor, and the length of time the patient has been on the UNOS waiting list.

There are many benefits in obtaining a kidney for transplant from a living donor. The wait time can be significantly reduced and transplant surgery can be more conveniently scheduled. If the living donor is related to the patient, there are additional benefits including better tissue match, less immunosuppression and reduced risk of organ rejection.

Having Transplant Surgery

Once a kidney becomes available that matches the recipient's blood and tissue type, transplant surgery is usually scheduled within a few hours. For this reason, the care team at Riverside Transplantation Institute is on call 24 hours a day, every day. Patients waiting for kidney transplant surgery are given pagers so that they can be contacted immediately when an organ becomes available.

Kidney transplant surgery is performed in a surgical suite and post-operative care is provided in the specially designed transplant unit at Riverside Community Hospital. This unit is equipped with the latest technology to meet the unique needs of transplant patients from preoperative care, through surgery, to postoperative care.

Recuperating After Surgery

After transplant surgery, patients are cared for in the transplant unit at Riverside Community Hospital. The care team on the unit has advanced training in caring for transplant patients and the unit has been designed to meet the special needs of these patients. Most patients spend approximately 3-5 days in the hospital before returning home.

Kidney transplant surgery requires only one small incision which helps to reduce postoperative discomfort. For the first 4-5 days following surgery, urine is eliminated from the body through a catheter. Normal bladder function is usually restored after these first few days. Patients usually begin eating the day after surgery.

Many patients experience normal function of the transplanted kidney immediately after surgery. For some patients, however, normalization of kidney function may be slower and dialysis may be needed for a period of time after surgery.

Caring for Living Donors

When a kidney is made available from a living donor, the surgery to remove the donated organ is closely coordinated with the transplant surgery. Both patients, the donor and the recipient, are cared for in the Transplant Unit at Riverside Community Hospital. Donors are usually able to return home within 5-6 days after surgery.

On-going Care Support Services

Once patients are ready to return home, the care team evaluates individual needs and assists in making arrangements for at-home care. Patients are given individualized instructions for home care and are scheduled for follow-up care.

At Riverside Transplantation Institute, we work closely with patients' primary care and specialty care physicians to assure a coordinated continuum of care. Patients are referred back to their primary care physician following postsurgical stabilization at three months. Patients may be referred back to Riverside Transplantation Institute at any time if a problem arises.