Kidney Transplant 101

A doctor explains the procedure to a kidney transplant patient
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If you or a loved one is facing renal failure and dialysis, you might have questions or concerns about a potential kidney transplant. How long will you have to wait for surgery, what’s involved, who’s your donor, how long does surgery take, and how long will it take to heal are all common questions. To understand everything involved in this life-changing procedure, we spoke with our own board-certified general surgeon and kidney transplant specialist, Michael Angelis, MD.

Who’s Eligible for a Kidney Transplant?

To be eligible for a kidney transplant, you’ll need to have renal failure, and either be on dialysis or facing it soon. You’ll also have to have an age-appropriate cancer screening and be cleared by your general practitioner for surgery to be sure that you don’t have any issues such as heart disease that may complicate surgery. Before coming to the AdventHealth Transplant Institute you will need to discuss this option with your nephrologist.

Once you and your doctor have determined that you may be eligible for a kidney transplant you will need to be cleared by the AdventHealth Transplant Institute organ transplant selection committee which is comprised of specialists from several different fields including social workers, finance managers, nutritionists, nurses, physicians, and surgeons. If you are going to be considered for a kidney transplant you will need to be in good physical condition, have a support system in place to help with recovery, and are approved through insurance or are financially prepared to cover the cost of the surgery and post-surgery medications.

Waiting Lists and Organ Donors

Once you have been cleared by the selection committee, you will be placed on the national organ donor computerized waiting list that is broken across regions and states to make sure all organs are allocated in the most optimal condition and in an equitable and fair manner.

Your medical priority, blood type, body size will determine your length on the waiting list. The AdventHealth Transplant Institute has a median wait time of 22.1 months which is shorter than national averages.

“Those with a blood type B generally have to wait the longest as it’s the rarer blood type, while those with type A will generally get a kidney sooner,” explains Dr. Angelis. “If you need a kidney transplant, and you have a family member who is a match and is willing to donate a kidney to you, these situations generally lead to the best outcomes and the shortest waiting times.”

Other living donors being good Samaritans may step in and speed up the process as well. A living donor transplant generally lasts longer and has a shorter waiting list time. However, the majority of kidney donations come from a deceased organ donor.

According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), AdventHealth Transplant Institute has shorter wait times and better transplant rates compared to national averages. That means more of our patients will receive a kidney sooner than other transplant facilities in the country. Additionally, we have outcomes in line with expected national success rates.

Once you have a matching donor it’s time for surgery.

What’s Involved in the Surgery?

“The surgery itself is pretty straightforward these days,” says Dr. Angelis. “It only takes about two to three hours and is performed with a laparoscopy which only requires a small incision near the belly button. There’s usually very little to no scarring and minimal pain. And most patients that haven’t had any complications, which is about 80 percent of the time, will be out of the hospital within four days. Seventy-five percent of those won’t require any long-term steroid treatments and can go back to their lives as usual.”

Recovery

Once you are discharged from the hospital you will have to take it easy – that means no strenuous activities for about 6-8 weeks. You will have access to your kidney transplant coordinator during your entire recovery. In the first few months following a transplant, patients typically return for weekly follow up visits. As time goes by, those appointments will be less frequent but will always include at least one annual exam. There will still be certain maintenance medications that you will have to take for the rest of your life to ensure that your body doesn’t reject the new organ.

Why AdventHealth for Your Kidney Transplant?

“Since the inception of our Transplant Institute we’ve performed over 4,000 kidney transplant surgeries, with half of them having been performed in the last 15 years,” says Dr Angelis. “We also perform a third of all pediatric kidney transplants in the state of Florida as well as ten percent of all the kidney transplant surgeries every year across the U.S.”

“Our state-of-the-art facilities and specialist teams comprised of surgeons, nephrologists, specialized nursing teams, dieticians, and transplant coordinators are dedicated to your recovery and well-being. We were also one of 36 health systems selected to participate in the COIINquality improvement project which is intended to set forth a standard of best practices concerning transplant surgeries and the patient care.”

To learn more, click here or call Call407-303-2474 to speak with a kidney transplant specialist.

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