kidney transplant

Kidneys take the proverb “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” very seriously, as they flush out toxins and waste items from your body efficiently. This versatile pair of organs, though modest, also balances bodily fluids, releases blood pressure-regulating hormones, and controls red blood cell production. Hence, when kidneys stop functioning the way they are meant to, kidney transplant is sometimes the most effective treatment option left. However, before opting for a major surgery like this, it is natural to have several questions in mind. Read on to clear your doubts and make an informed decision.  

Why go for kidney transplant, and what are the options?

Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, one on either side of the spine, located in the lower part of the abdomen. They are responsible for eliminating all metabolic wastes from the body through urine, and thereby maintain fluid balance. With ageing or due to diseases, kidneys can deteriorate and may not be able to function fully to eliminate wastes and water. This can lead to the accumulation of metabolic wastes within the body and also increase fluid retention. Non-functioning kidneys can have a severe impact on your overall health. As the first line of treatment, a person may be put on dialysis to artificially pump out wastes and water. Another option, which is more promising, is a kidney transplant, which involves acquiring a healthy kidney from a live donor, sometimes a blood relative, or from a deceased person.  Various parameters are matched before a kidney is transplanted. 

What is the average life expectancy after a kidney transplant?

The life expectancy of a transplant is the number of years the new kidney can function optimally until it deteriorates and needs a new transplant. The life expectancy is better if the transplant is done with the help of a live donor (12 to 20 years) as compared to a deceased person (8 to 12 years). The live donor rate is further improved if the kidney is received from a blood relative. The advantage is that any kidney transplant provides better prognosis compared to dialysis. 

What percentage of kidney transplants are successful?

The success rate of a kidney transplant is measured by how well the new kidney is accepted by the recipient’s body and how well the person is able to lead their life compared to their state before the transplant. In some cases, the recipient’s immune system might recognize the new kidney as a foreign object and reject it. The transplanted kidney might need to be removed in that case. Chances of rejection are low though, and most often, kidney transplants are successful. Here again, the success rate is higher with a live donor than with a kidney from a deceased individual. When measured after a year, the success rate is significantly high – about 97% for a live transplant and 96% for a deceased person’s kidney. After 5 years, the rates become 85% and 80% respectively.

How long can you live with one kidney after kidney transplant?

Though a normal person has two kidneys, it is well established that one well-functioning kidney is adequate to bear the functionality burden of two kidneys.  In some birth defects, where one kidney is absent or nonfunctional, the other kidney takes over the complete workload.  Even with kidney failure, the transplanted single kidney can take over the function of two kidneys without any hassle at all. The age and health of the donor tend to determine the overall functioning though. The recipient’s lifespan can be also determined by their overall health, any existing medical conditions, and lifestyle.  

Can you live a normal life after a kidney transplant?

Most people who receive a kidney transplant see an improvement in their lifestyle. As a transplant is equivalent to having a fully functioning kidney, the “normalcy” experienced post-surgery is higher compared to those days when the person suffered from kidney issues. Age and other health conditions also determine how normal things can go back to.

Can a kidney transplant last 30 years?

The number of years a transplant would last varies and depends on multiple factors – like, related donors do much better than unrelated donors and live transplants do better than deceased ones. The overall health and lifestyle of the recipient and the age at which the transplant is done are also major deciding factors for the success and longevity of the new kidney. While new kidneys can last more than 30 years in some people, it cannot be taken as gospel truth for all. On an average, a kidney can last for up to 15 to 20 years, and a second replacement transplant is considered normal these days.