Transplanting the kidney

The goal of transplant is to provide you with a single functioning kidney to perform the work that your kidneys are no longer able to do. A successful transplant can return you to a state of good health.

The kidney you will receive may be a living gift from a member of your family or a friend. If no living donor is available, you may receive a kidney from someone who has died and donated their kidney.

While treatment options such as hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis can eliminate wastes from your body and remove excess chemicals from your blood, they can’t produce vital hormones like the kidneys can. Through transplantation, you will get a new kidney that performs all of these vital functions.

How it works

A surgeon places the new kidney inside your lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to your own artery and vein. Your blood flows through the new kidney and makes urine, just like your own kidneys did when they were healthy. The urine flows into the bladder through the ureter of the kidney, which is surgically attached to the bladder.

The new kidney may start working right away or may take up to a few weeks to make urine. Your own kidneys are usually left where they are, unless they are causing infection or high blood pressure. The surgery takes approximately two to four hours to complete. The average hospital stay is five to 10 days.

Source of the new kidney

You may receive a kidney from:

  • A family member (living related donor)
  • A spouse or friend (living unrelated donor)
  • A person who has recently died (deceased donor)

A deceased donor kidney transplant occurs to someone who is waiting on the transplant list. The United Network for Organ Sharing is the national organization that manages the allocation or distribution of organs. The waiting list has more than 120,000 people in need of all organ transplants, with more than 99,000 adults and children waiting for a kidney transplant in the U.S.*

Unfortunately, there are more people waiting for transplants than there are organs available to be transplanted. Waiting times vary from patient to patient due to individual medical conditions, genetic characteristics and sensitivity of the patient, but the national average is 60 months. This is often why more and more people are choosing to have a living donor kidney transplant.

Success rates

Kidney transplantation is the most successful treatment option for end-stage renal disease, and the life expectancy is improved for patients when compared to dialysis treatments.

At the Hume-Lee Transplant Center, adult patient survival is just over 96 percent after one year and 93 percent after three years for our deceased donor kidney transplant recipients. Our living donor transplant recipients’ patient survival is 100 percent after one year and after three years.**

* Data taken from OPTN/SRTR 2011 Annual Data Report
** Data taken from SRTR program-specific report on Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, based on data dating to 2012