What to Expect After a Transplant
The care you receive after a transplant is not the same as the treatment you had on dialysis. To keep your new kidney working, there will be other medications you will take and we’ll be checking how well your kidney is working.
Your first year after transplant will be the busiest. There will be a lot of blood work and many visits with the transplant team. Blood tests are done for many reasons but one of the most important after a kidney transplant is to check the levels of the immunosuppressive medications in your blood. These medications need to be kept at certain levels to protect your kidney and prevent rejection. You’ll do less blood work and visit the clinic less as time passes and as you feel better. Kidney ultrasounds, scans, and biopsies will be done to know how well the new kidney is working. Medications will be changed as you feel better and as your body heals. It’s very important that you take all your medications exactly as prescribed. Immunosuppressive medications may have side effects so you’ll be watched closely by the transplant team. The transplant team will adjust the dose of your medications if the level of the medications in your blood aren’t in the right range or if you have side effects.
If you live outside of the greater Edmonton area or greater Calgary area, you’ll need to stay in the city where you received your transplant for 4 weeks and possibly
up to 12 weeks after surgery. You won’t be able to drive for about 4 weeks after you go home from the hospital. Before your transplant, talk to your social worker if you need help finding a place to stay in the city after your transplant. This makes it easier to see how you’re recovering. If you need extra tests that you can only get in larger centres, we can act quickly to help you get those tests done. You may need to be readmitted to the hospital in the first year after your transplant. This may happen more than once and is quite normal. Your transplant team will also need to watch you closely as your body adjusts to the new kidney.
After your transplant, you’ll need to drink lots of water every day. This will keep you and your new kidney well hydrated so you feel well and the kidney works well. This will make you pee (urinate) often at first. This is because for the last while, when your kidneys haven’t been working well, your bladder has gotten smaller so it can’t hold as much urine as it used to.
It’s important to stay in contact with the transplant team to protect your kidney. Together we can prevent rejection and find ways to manage problems with your medications or side effects as you go through your new treatment plan. We are here to support you and your family. If you have any signs or symptoms of rejection, please contact your transplant team as soon as possible.
What to expect for the life of your new kidney?
- Lifelong immunosuppressive medications
- Close observation for signs of rejection
- Regular blood work
- Monitoring with the transplant program
- Regular visits with a family doctor and dentist
- Cancer prevention like sun safety, using sunblock, protective clothing, avoiding smoking and alcohol
- Infection prevention like using good hand washing and avoiding people who are sick
- Drinking lots of water each day (2.5 to 3 litres per day)
After a transplant, many people can go back to work, and do the same activities and routines they did before their kidney disease. But it’s important to remember that you need to take very good care of the transplanted kidney for as long as you have it. This means working with the transplant team and doing things for yourself.
Take immunosuppressive medicines every day as ordered.
In the first few months, all blood work must be done at the University Hospital if your transplant is in Edmonton, or Foothills Medical Center if your transplant is in Calgary.
After the first 3 months, blood work can be done near your home. You will have regular follow-up appointments with the transplant team, and if there are any problems then extra blood work, tests, or hospitals stays will be planned to help you.
It may be a year before you have blood tests less often, such as every 1 to 4 months. You may need to have blood tests more often if there are changes to your health or if your kidney isn’t working well. Having regular blood tests is an important part of your transplant care.
Care After Your Transplant
You will need to keep track of your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, weight, and blood sugars after you go home from the hospital. This helps to find potential side effects of some of your new medications. You will also need to keep track of how much fluid you drink and how much you pee out. Give your transplant team a report of your readings at your transplant clinic appointments.
Dialysis After Transplant
Dialysis is sometimes needed for a short time after the transplant until your new kidney is working well. It may take time for your new kidney to work well because of many factors related to your health or if something happened to the donor kidney before or during the transplant surgery. If the kidney doesn’t start working well after the transplant, this is called delayed graft function.
If you need dialysis after a transplant, it doesn’t mean that the transplant has failed. It may take hours, days, or weeks for the new kidney to work as it should. The transplant team will let you know if they think you need short-term dialysis and will help you plan your treatment. Statistics from the kidney transplant programs in Alberta show that more than 95% of transplanted kidneys are working 1 year after the transplant.