Kidney transplants are a complex surgery. The transplant surgery program at the UVM Medical Center is here to answer your questions and guide you through the process. Transplants are typically reserved for high-risk patients that have renal failure (when your kidneys stop working). Donor organs can come from both living & deceased individuals and typically require you to be on a waiting list. Learn more about our approach to treating kidney failure with kidney transplants.
Kidney Transplants at UVM Medical Center: Our Approach
The transplant surgery program at the UVM Medical Center includes comprehensive treatment options and support services. Since kidney transplants are a complex surgery, a team of specialists from different departments work together in the hospital to offer:
- Both deceased and living donor transplant
- Treatment for high-risk patients
- Pediatric kidney transplant surgery
- Laparoscopic nephrectomy to living donors, a minimally invasive surgery that offers the least discomfort to donors and shorter recovery time. Smaller incisions make for faster recovery time and an easier surgical experience overall.
Kidney Transplant Surgery vs. Dialysis
Most patients with renal failure can be considered as candidates for a kidney transplant. You must undergo a transplant evaluation to determine if you are a good candidate for transplant surgery. Receiving a transplant will require lifetime treatment, including taking immunosuppressant medications every day.
A kidney transplant, like dialysis, is a treatment option for kidney failure. With a successful transplant, you will not need dialysis. Most patients live longer with a transplant than they do on dialysis and report living a more normal lifestyle. Diet and fluid intake are easier to manage and our patients report higher energy levels after a transplant.
It’s important to know that a kidney transplant is a treatment, not a cure. Transplanted organs only work for a limited time. More than 80% of all transplanted kidneys from deceased donors are still working after two years. Kidneys from living donors are still working at a rate of 90-95% after two years.
Transplant surgery will affect your life in many ways: physically, socially, financially and emotionally. Read more about life after transplant surgery.
Kidneys can come from two sources:
- Living donor - Living donors include relatives and unrelated donors (spouse or friend). Living donors are the best possible source for a kidney.
- Deceased donor - A deceased donor is someone who has died whose family agrees to donate his/her organs. . If you are waiting for a deceased donor, your name goes on a waitlist with a national organization called the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) after your transplant evaluation.
Potential living donors must undergo a number of tests to make sure they are compatible with the patient and healthy enough to donate a kidney. These tests include:
- Blood tests
- Thorough medical evaluation
- Cardiac testing
- Chest X-ray
- Analysis of urine
- MRI or CT scan to visualize the kidneys
At The University of Vermont Medical Center, all potential donors meet with our transplant social worker to review the pros and cons of donation. Our Living Donor Advocates also meet with all donors before and after surgery to make sure their needs are being met. Some donors may require further evaluation from the hospital psychiatrist or psychologist. After the surgery, donors may be in the hospital for three to five days. Most return to work in four to six weeks.
Kidney Donor Waiting List
If you want to be on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, you will need to know about the following:
- Patients who are listed must be reachable 24 hours a day/7days a week. You must be prepared to come to the hospital day or night.
- Waiting time begins the day you are listed for transplant. This time continues to accrue without interruption even if you are listed as "temporarily unavailable" due to an acute illness or if you are away from the area for vacation or for other personal reasons.
- You may choose to be listed at another transplant center as well as at The UVM Medical Center. Please speak with a member of the transplant team and we will assist you in any we can.
- If you choose to have your name removed from the list at The UVM Medical Center, your accrued waiting time may be transferred to another program. It is the responsibility of the new transplant program to assist you with the request to transfer your waiting time.
- While you are on the waiting list, an annual visit will be scheduled with the Nurse Practitioner and Transplant Social Worker to make sure you are in good health and to keep all pre-transplant testing up to date.
- The length of time that someone is on the waitlist is unpredictable and is dependent on many factors.
- Monthly blood samples are required for cross match determination. The samples can be drawn at The UVM Medical Center or your local blood lab. When a donor becomes available, your blood samples are tested to determine their compatibility with the donor. This process usually happens before the calling the patient. Sometimes, due to time restrictions, it is done when the patient is on the way to the hospital or already there.
Related Treatments or Tests
Dialysis is a process that filters wastes from the blood when your kidneys can no longer do the job. It is not a cure for kidney disease, but it can help you live longer and feel better. It can be a lifesaving treatment for when you have kidney failure.
Dialysis can serve as a substitute for some of the functions of the kidneys. Many patients do well on dialysis and never consider transplantation. Others struggle with dialysis treatments or do not feel well on dialysis. For example, dialysis may interfere with you daily activities. Others struggle with their access site for dialysis.