How kidney transplants work
During a kidney transplant, a surgeon replaces one of a patient’s diseased kidneys with a healthy kidney from either a living or deceased donor. While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon places the donated kidney inside the body just under the hipbone, sewing it to an artery and vein before connecting it to the bladder.
Once attached, the donor kidney takes over and begins to filter out waste just like a healthy kidney should. In most cases, it’s not necessary to remove the diseased kidneys.
How to get on the kidney transplant list
Getting on the kidney transplant waiting list is a three-step process.
Step 1: Receive a referral from your doctor.
Schedule an appointment with your nephrologist to talk about the possibility of getting a kidney transplant. If your doctor thinks you’re a good candidate, he or she will refer you to a local transplant center.
If you live in the Puget Sound region, you’ll likely be referred to Swedish Medical Center, UW Medical Center or Virginia Mason.
Step 2: Get evaluated by transplant specialists.
Meet with the transplant specialists at your referred transplant center. They will evaluate your condition further and decide whether you’re healthy enough to proceed. They will also help identify any special needs you may have during and after the transplant. Specifically, you must be cancer free, a non-smoker and have no active infections. If you are severely overweight, you may be required to lose weight prior to being considered for a transplant.
Step 3: Undergo blood tests and health screenings.
Receive a series of medical screenings to confirm your eligibility. This includes blood tests to determine your unique blood and tissue types, a dental exam and cancer screenings. If the lab results look good, you’ll be placed on the national transplant waiting list.
It is important to remember that a kidney transplant is not a cure, it is a treatment option. Once you receive a transplant you will need to take daily medication, have your blood checked on a regular basis and follow up with the transplant center or your kidney doctor. With care and a healthy lifestyle, a kidney transplant can last years.