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Kidney Transplant: Symptoms, Classification, Diagnosis & Recovery

A kidney transplant is a surgery where a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor is placed into someone whose own kidneys aren't working properly. The kidneys, shaped like beans and located on each side of the spine below the ribs, normally filter waste and fluid from the blood to make urine.

The kidney performs several important functions in the human body. Even slight damage to the kidneys can, therefore, cause a lot of problems. When the kidney is rendered incapable of its main function, that is, removal of waste products from the blood, a condition called uremia develops.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of this condition do not develop unless 90 percent of the kidney is damaged. This is the time when an individual would require kidney transplantation surgery or dialysis to restore normal functioning.

Several other kidney diseases warrant the need for a kidney transplantation. Some of these conditions include the following:

  • Deep-rooted problems in the anatomy of the urinary tract
  • Extremely high blood pressure
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus

Some of the common symptoms observed in the case of kidney diseases include the following:

  • Shortness of breath and general fatigue
  • Retention of fluid causing swelling (edema)
  • Foamy and dark orange, brown, red, or tea-colored urine
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Back pain
  • Restless legs and inability to sleep due to leg cramps
  • Metallic taste
  • Breathing problems due to urea build-up in the blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness in the toes or fingertips and tingling sensation
  • Problem concentrating

Before getting a kidney transplant, the doctors will check if you meet the requirements for the transplant center. They will look at whether you are healthy enough for surgery, can handle the medications after the transplant, and don't have any health issues that might affect the success of the transplant. You need to be willing and able to follow the advice of the transplant team.

This evaluation process takes a few days and involves a thorough

  • Physical check-up
  • Imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs
  • Blood tests
  • Psychological evaluation

Your doctor may also recommend other tests if needed. After the evaluation, the transplant team will discuss the results with you and let you know if you are approved for a kidney transplant. Remember that each transplant center has its own rules, so if one says no, you can apply them to others.

During a kidney transplant, the surgery is performed under the influence of general anesthesia, and the surgical team keeps an eye on your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.

The surgeon cuts the lower side of your abdomen, puts the new kidney inside, and leaves your kidneys unless they're causing issues. They connect the new kidney's blood vessels to yours and link the ureter (tube from the kidney to the bladder) to your bladder.

During the kidney transplant procedure, an intravenous line is initiated in the hand or arm, and catheters are connected to the wrist and neck to check the blood pressure, and heart status and take samples of blood. The groin or region below the collarbone can also be used for insertion of catheters.

The hair is shaved off or cleared in the region of the surgical site and a urinary catheter is inserted into the bladder. The patient is positioned on the operating table lying on their back. After the administration of general anesthesia, a tube is positioned into the lungs through the mouth. This tube is attached to a ventilator so that the patient can breathe during the surgery.

The anesthesiologist closely monitors the blood oxygen level, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The site of the incision is cleaned with an antiseptic solution. A long incision is made by the doctor on one side of the lower abdomen. The donor's kidney is visually inspected before implantation.

Now the donor's kidney is placed in the abdomen. Usually, the left donor kidney is implanted on the right side and vice versa. This leaves the scope to connect ureters with the bladder. To the external iliac artery and vein, the renal artery and vein of the donor's kidney are sewn.

The donor ureter is then connected to the urinary bladder of the patient. With surgical staples and stitches, the incision is closed and a drain is positioned at the incision site to prevent swelling. Lastly, a sterile bandage or dressing is placed.

Post-surgery, Patients are required to spend several days to weeks in the hospital depending upon the situation, Healthcare professionals monitor the conditions in the recovery area to observe any signs of complications.

Patients also have to be in frequent follow-up sessions for a few weeks after hospital discharge. You may be required to have a blood test several times a week.

Immunosuppressive agents that fight rejection prevent this from happening. These medications have been prescribed by doctors to transplanted patients for their lifetime. The kidney transplant success rate is challenged if these medications are stopped. A combination of drugs is usually recommended.

The patient is encouraged to take small steps and start walking and moving a bit. The kidney transplant recovery period lasts for around two to three weeks after the surgery, after which the patient may return to normal life.

Treatment cost in India: 13500
Treatment cost in Turkey: 18360
Treatment cost in Singapore: 75000
Treatment cost in Thailand: 55000
Treatment cost in Israel: 160000
Treatment cost in South Africa: 7000
Treatment cost in South Korea: 81000
Treatment cost in United Arab Emirates: 54240

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to have a kidney transplant?

A: Kidney transplant can take around 2 to 4 hours to complete

Q: What is the cost of a kidney transplant?

A: Kidney transplant cost varies from country to country. Kidney transplant in India is, for example, is quite cheap as compared to the US. The kidney rate in India and abroad, however, depends on several factors. This includes the duration of hospital stay and the type of hospital where the treatment is being conducted.

Q: Why are diseased kidneys not removed?

A: Removing the diseased kidneys mean longer recovery time, greater pain, complicated surgery, and more time under anesthesia. Because of all these reasons, kidney transplant surgeons usually leave old kidneys behind. The diseased kidneys are left in after transplant also because of the reason that they are difficult to access.