1 South Prospect Street
Rehab, Level 2
Burlington, VT 05401
Kidney Transplants at the UVM Medical Center
A kidney transplant is a surgery that gives patients with advanced kidney (renal) failure a healthy kidney from another person. Transplant is the preferred treatment option for most people who are on dialysis or are approaching dialysis.
Kidney transplants are complex surgeries that require both significant preparation and lifelong follow-up care. The experienced transplant team at The University of Vermont Medical Center is here to guide you through the process and provide support every step of the way.
- Excellent outcomes: The UVM Medical Center achieves excellent outcomes for kidney transplants, with 96.6% of donor kidney recipients alive with a functioning transplant one year after surgery. Over a period of three years, 38.5% of patients on our waitlist underwent a transplant, as compared to 31.4% of patients nationally.
- Advanced treatments: We offer comprehensive treatments and procedures, including both deceased- and living-donor transplant, treatment for high-risk patients and pediatric transplant surgery. Our surgeons are experts in laparoscopic nephrectomy, a minimally invasive surgery with less discomfort to living donors and a shorter recovery time for the recipient.
- A multidisciplinary team: Our experienced transplant team works together to offer you the best possible care. Our kidney transplant specialists come from both clinical and non-clinical backgrounds, and include transplant surgeons, nephrologists, social workers, pharmacists, financial coordinators and dietitians. All potential transplant recipients are assigned a transplant coordinator, who will be a resource for you throughout the evaluation, surgery and post-operative processes.
- Ongoing support: Receiving a kidney transplant will require treatment for the rest of your life, or the lifespan of your new kidney. Our support team is available to you long after your surgery as you adjust to your new post-transplant lifestyle.
Conditions we treat with kidney transplants
Kidney transplant is used to treat chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal failure, which means your kidneys can no longer function well enough to keep you healthy. Renal failure affects your whole body, and can cause serious bone, heart, lung, blood and brain problems.
You only need one healthy kidney to live. A donor kidney can do the work that your own kidneys can’t, including removing waste from your blood and balancing your body’s fluids and chemicals. Most patients with renal failure can be considered for transplant surgery, but you must undergo a transplant evaluation to determine if you are a good candidate for a transplant.
Kidney transplant candidacy criteria
- You have chronic renal disease or are dialysis dependent
- You have a BMI of less than 40
- You have received the initial COVID-19 vaccine series
- You have a sufficient support system
- You have been nicotine and tobacco free for at least 6 months
- You do not misuse drugs or alcohol
- You do not have active cancer
- You have active health insurance
- Pediatric patients must weigh at least 25kg (55lb)
- You must show motivation to receive a kidney transplant, including returning contact attempts by the transplant program, working to understand the transplant process and willing to sign informed consent forms once you have been educated and your questions have been answered
What to expect from a kidney transplant
At the UVM Medical Center, you will work closely with a transplant coordinator throughout the entire transplant process.
All potential kidney transplant recipients at the UVM Medical Center must undergo a thorough transplant evaluation to ensure that transplant surgery is the right treatment option for you. This evaluation includes:
- A physical exam, in which a transplant nephrologist will assess your overall health
- Assessments with registered dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, financial coordinators and your transplant coordinator
- Blood tests to determine your blood type and immunization status, and to screen for antibodies and viruses such as Hepatitis B and C, HIV and cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Tissue typing to identify proteins in your blood called antigens, which help identify a kidney match
- Chest X-ray to see if your lungs are healthy
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) stress test to monitor the functioning of your heart
- Cardiac studies, as indicated by age and history
- Health maintenance exams, such as mammogram and/or pap smear for women, colonoscopy, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for men
Your doctor may also perform additional assessments and tests to determine your eligibility for a kidney transplant.
The UVM Medical Center Transplant Selection Committee will review the results of your evaluation and decide if you are a good candidate for transplantation. Once you have been approved, you will be placed on the UNOS kidney transplant waitlist and wait for a donor.
There are two types of donors:
- A living donor can be a relative or unrelated donor, such as a friend or a spouse. Living donors are the best source for a kidney. If you are using a living donor, they will need to undergo a number of tests to make sure they are healthy enough to donate a kidney. They will also meet with a transplant social worker and the Independent Living Donor Advocate to make sure they understand the pros and cons of organ donation and their needs are being met. Your transplant surgery will be scheduled once you and your donor have been approved for transplantation.
- A deceased donor is someone who has died and whose family has agreed to donate their organs.
During your transplant surgery, a transplant surgeon will:
- Make an incision in the lower abdomen, just above the groin area, and place the donated kidney. Your own kidney will typically not be removed.
- Attach the blood vessels of the donor kidney to your own blood supply and the ureter (a tube that carries urine) to your bladder.
- Place a stent in the ureter to ensure that it does not narrow or close during healing.
- Close the incision with staples or sutures.
After your surgery, our transplant team will monitor you closely to make sure your new organ is working. Transplanted kidneys usually begin to work immediately, although kidney function may be delayed for days or even weeks. If this occurs, you may need to temporarily resume dialysis treatments until your new kidney is functioning at an adequate level.
After kidney transplant
With a successful transplant, you will no longer need dialysis. Most patients live longer with a transplant than they do on dialysis, and report living a more normal lifestyle. Patients typically report higher energy levels after transplant, and diet and fluid intake are easier to manage.
Transplant surgery can affect you physically, socially, financially and emotionally. Receiving a kidney transplant requires lifetime follow-up medical care, including taking immunosuppressant medications every day and making lifestyle changes. The UVM Medical Center transplantation staff will support you as you resume your daily activities, so you can sustain the benefits of your transplant for the rest of your life.