You will meet with the surgeon to talk about the surgery before you have a transplant from a deceased donor or a living donor. The surgeon will decide if surgery is a good option for you by looking at your overall health and history. They will also talk to you about the risks of surgery, what to expect from surgery, and how long it will take to recover.
During a kidney transplant, the donor kidney is placed inside your body, in your lower abdomen. The donor kidney’s blood vessels are joined to your blood vessels and the donor kidney’s ureter (a tube that takes urine from the kidney to your bladder) is joined to your bladder. The transplant surgery takes about 3 to 6 hours.
Your own kidneys usually are not removed, so you actually have 3 kidneys after the surgery. This isn’t like other organ transplants (e.g., heart, liver, or lung) where a person’s own organ is removed to make room and replaced.
What problems might happen with transplant surgery?
Transplant is a major surgery, and has all the risks of any surgery. Bleeding, blood clots, and infection are a few examples of problems (complications) that could happen.
But complications from transplant surgery don’t happen very often. Some examples are:
- bleeding that needs a blood transfusion (5 to 20% of patients will need a blood transfusion and this will depend on your blood count at the time of the transplant)
- blockage of blood flow to the new kidney (1% of patients will need another surgery to repair the blockage)
- urine leak (3 to 5% of patients may need surgery to repair a urine leak)
- infection around the time of surgery (less than 5% of patients develop an infection)
- lymphocele (a collection of fluid around the transplanted kidney that will need to be drained by surgery in 4 to 5% patients)
There’s always a risk that your body could reject the transplanted kidney. Most of the time, this can be treated.