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Organ transplantation in simple terms means the replacement of a non-working organ in your body with an organ obtained from another individual.

 

What is organ transplantation?

The individual who receives the transplant is called the recipient while the individual who donates his organ is called the donor. The donors can be healthy living individuals or individuals who have recently deceased. Various organs such as the kidney, heart, liver, eyes, lung and pancreas can be transplanted. 

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When is kidney transplantation advised?

Kidney transplantation is generally advised when both the kidneys have failed or have stopped functioning in an individual. Kidneys have numerous functions in our body which includes production of hormones and clearing the waste products from the body. Kidneys are also essential for the re-absorption of certain essential elements during the formation of urine. Kidney failure may occur due to a variety of causes and can lead to life-threatening situations. Kidney failure results in a loss of all the functions leading to build up of toxic products in the body and also deficiencies due to the absence of hormones being produced in the kidneys. Kidney transplantation is often a last option considered when all the other options to treat individuals with kidney failure do not improve their health status.

What is the transplantation process?

Kidney transplantation is a long process that involves many pre-transplant procedures and long waiting periods. The waiting periods are much shorter if a living donor who matches all the requirements of the recipient’s body is willing to donate the kidney. The transplantation process involves the steps such as identification, enlisting, evaluation, transplant operation, recovery and post-transplant care. 

Identification

This involves identification of the individuals who require a kidney transplant. All individuals have two kidneys in their body and most of the individuals with at least one functioning kidney can survive without major complications. Individuals with failure of both the kidneys may also be treated with a procedure known as dialysis. The doctors evaluate your condition thoroughly including screening for other underlying conditions that may cause the transplantation to fail. Blood tests and imaging studies are performed to check whether kidney transplantation is a suitable option for you or not. Once all these procedures are complete you may be placed on the waiting list. The doctors may also collect samples of your blood to match with the recipient’s body and check for a match. Further detailed analysis may be required before the actual procedure.

Enlisting

Once you have been advised to go for a kidney transplant you will registered for the kidney transplant at the designated hospital. If you have a living donor who is willing to donate a kidney, then the procedure is much faster. However, it depends on the individual’s match with your body in terms of blood group and certain other specific factors. In most of the cases a close blood relative matches the recipient, while other individuals with same blood group as the recipient can also donate the kidney. If you do not know any living donors then you may have to wait for the organ donation from a deceased individual. The healthy kidneys from the deceased individuals are donated as per the individual’s (request made before death) or his relatives’ directions.

Evaluation

Initially the blood group of the donor and the recipient is matched. Then further analysis to rule out any complications that may arise in the body of the donor (if living) and the recipient is advised. Our body generally produces certain special proteins known as antibodies against any foreign material that enters our body. Organ transplantations fail majorly due to these antibodies which consider the organ transplanted to be a threat to the body and try to destroy it. Blood tests are therefore advised before the transplantation to rule out such reactions. Once all these factors match, the transplantation process may be carried out. 

Transplant operation

The transplant operation is performed under general anesthesia. The collection of the kidney from the living donor is also done under general anesthesia. The collection and transplantation procedure may either be performed on the same day or within 48 hours of kidney removal from the donor. In most of the cases the diseased kidneys are left in place as they do not cause any harm to the individual. The transplanted kidney is placed at a lower level compared to the already present ones. It is connected to the blood vessels and the bladder in a similar manner to the original kidneys. The transplanted kidney can often become active soon after the operation. In other cases it may take a few weeks time for it to get adjusted with your body and start functioning.

Recovery 

You may need to stay at the hospital for about a week’s time in order to receive appropriate medications and to evaluate the success of the transplantation procedure. The hospital stay may be prolonged in case further care is required or you develop any complications.

Post-transplant care

Following the operation you may need to consume certain medications for life in order to prevent any complications. The body’s defense system or the immune system may need to be suppressed to a certain level with the administration of immune-suppressing medications to prevent it from attacking the newly transplanted organ. Follow ups at regular intervals are needed to evaluate the success of the transplantation procedure and to monitor its performance over time.

What is organ rejection and other complications?

Organ rejection is the term used to refer to the situation where the recipient’s body fails to take up the donor’s organ as its own. Although a thorough analysis is performed to avoid this situation the acceptance of the recipient’s body cannot be predicted precisely. The antibodies in the recipient’s body may often lead to reactions that lead to the destruction of the transplanted organ. The doctor may advise another transplant or continue with the dialysis procedure based on the condition of your body.

Read More: New Method Of Predicting Kidney Failure

What are the pros and cons of kidney transplantation?

Individuals suffering from severe disabilities due to kidney failure may improve with kidney transplantation and the survival rate is improved to a certain extent. On the other hand kidney transplantation procedures are costly, involves a long waiting period, the chance of organ rejection is always present, complications of surgery may occur, and lifelong administration of medications are required.

What are the costs of kidney transplantation?

The kidney transplantation procedures are quite expensive and the treatment costs may vary with the region. Most of the health insurance provided by the government covers about 80% of the procedure cost while the private insurances or state programs may clear the rest. Several organizations may offer monetary help for the individuals who are unable to afford the treatment.

  • kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/choosingtreatment/
  • www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/organtransplantation.html
  • www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003005.htm
  • www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/uvahealth/adult_urology/trans.cfm
  • kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/transplant/
  • www.mayoclinic.com/health/kidney-transplant/DA00094