Knowing what to expect after surgery can help lessen your fears and help prepare you for what you may notice and need to do after surgery.
After surgery, you will have tubes outside and inside of your body.
Drains from your incision
You will have an incision where the surgeon placed your new kidney. This area of the skin is usually closed with stitches (sutures) or staples and covered with a dressing.
You may have a thin plastic tube called a drain from the incision. This drains extra fluid from the surgery area and prevents it from collecting around the new kidney.
The sutures or staples are removed a few weeks after the surgery and it will take up to 6 weeks for the incision to heal.
Central venous catheter
A central venous catheter (CVC) is a tube in your neck that goes to the large vein above your heart. A CVC allows your healthcare team to give you fluids and medicines, draw blood for blood tests, and to check if you are getting enough fluids.
A Foley catheter is a tube that drains urine from the bladder. It also helps the new ureter stay attached to your bladder and heal properly. This tube stays in for at least 5 days and is usually removed before you leave the hospital.
A ureteric stent is a tube that runs from the kidney through the ureter and into the bladder. It helps to keep the ureter open while it heals. The stent is removed about 6 to 8 weeks after the transplant.
Peritoneal dialysis catheters and dialysis lines
You will have a peritoneal dialysis catheter and dialysis lines to help filter your blood until your new kidney starts to work. These tubes will be removed once your new kidney is working well.
Start moving soon after surgery
It is important for you to get moving soon after surgery to help you recover. Your healthcare team will encourage you to get up and walk quite soon after surgery. They may also give you stockings or leg pumps to keep the blood moving in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
Don’t lift more than 10 pounds
Don’t lift more than 4.5 kg (10 lb.) for the first 6 weeks after surgery. This is about same weight as a 4 litre jug of milk.
Deep breathing and coughing exercises
The healthcare team will show you how to do deep breathing and coughing exercises. These exercises help to expand your lungs and remove mucus that may have collected during surgery. If you have trouble breathing deeply on your own, the healthcare team will show you how to use a machine to help you take deep breaths.
When you cough, it’s important to support your incision so it doesn’t hurt or make your pain worse. The healthcare team will show you how to do this.
You will have many tests to see how well your kidney is working, including:
- blood tests
- nuclear renal scans (an imaging test that uses a radioactive material to check how well the kidneys are working)
Changes in bladder control
If you have been on dialysis for a long time, your bladder isn’t used to working as hard to store urine. This may cause you to have problems with bladder control after your transplant.
If this happens, you may need to have physiotherapy on your pelvic floor to help you get control of your bladder.
Fluid build-up in the scrotum
Some men may have a lot of fluid build-up inside the scrotum in the first few days after the transplant surgery. This will go away with a few days.
Most adults who have a kidney transplant need to stay in the hospital for 5 to 10 days. Children stay in the hospital for 10 to 14 days, in most cases. The length of time you stay in the hospital will depend on how well the kidney is working and if you have any complications.
While you are in the hospital, you won’t be able to have a lot of visitors. This is because you have a high risk of getting an infection when you start taking medicine that stops your immune system from attacking your new kidney. During this time, it’s important that your visitors wash their hands properly and often before they come to see you. You should also avoid anyone who is sick and tell your visitors not to bring any fresh flowers or plants.
If you are very sick after your transplant, you may need to go to the intensive care unit (ICU) so your healthcare team can watch you more closely and give you more care.