When your kidneys fail, two treatment options exist: dialysis or a transplant. A transplant involves the removal of your failing kidney and replacement of it with a new kidney from a donor.
Some patients undergo dialysis for a period of time not long after kidneys begin to fail before receiving an “early” transplant. A “preemptive” transplant occurs when a patient’s kidneys fail, and a transplant is immediately done.
Benefits of a transplant
Many people believe that a transplant offers more freedom and, therefore, higher quality of life than permanent dialysis treatments. Benefits of a transplant include:
- Fewer dietary restrictions: A heart healthy diet is recommended.
- Improved energy and overall health
- Longer life expectancy: Studies show that kidney transplant patients live longer than those who remain on dialysis.
Risks of a transplant
A kidney transplant does not come without risks. These risks include:
- Risks associated with surgery
- Side effects associated with anti-rejection medications
- Rejection of kidney by your body
- Higher risk of infections
- Higher risk for certain types of cancer
While the new kidney can last for many years, how long varies by patient. Many patients need more than one kidney transplant in their lifetime.
Who can get a transplant?
Anybody with kidney disease- from children to seniors- can get a kidney transplant. Patients are assessed to determine if they are good candidates. To be a viable candidate, the patient must:
- Be cancer-free
- Have no infections
- Have a full medical and psychological evaluation
Older patients or those with other health problems may still be good candidates for kidney transplants. Your physician will discuss with you any risks associated with your age or health condition and recommend some things you can do to decrease those risks. For example, smoking cessation or weight loss may be recommended to decrease risks.