People unable to live without dialysis or a new kidney are candidates for transplant. These patients — who are in end-stage kidney disease — may receive a kidney from a living or deceased donor. In the United States, the most common causes of end-stage kidney are diabetes and high blood pressure, though there are many more. About 100,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants in the U.S.
How do deceased adults become donors?
After being pronounced dead, adults who have identified themselves as donors have their kidneys harvested for transplant. Most transplanted kidneys come from this process known as deceased donor transplant. The family of a deceased person can also agree to organ donation.
How are living adults able to be donors?
Family members may be able to donate one of their kidneys through living transplant. The same is true of unrelated people who are a good match. Potential donors are extensively screened physically and psychologically. These living donors have unchanged life expectancy and quality of life.
What’s the process involved in finding a new kidney?
Placement on the transplant list involves extensive evaluation — diagnostic and psychosocial. Initial blood tests help determine urgency of kidney need and to establish blood chemistries essential in matching to a potential donor. Further blood evaluations are designed to lessen the chances of eventual organ rejection. A potential recipient will undergo a further battery of tests to gauge overall health. Though many are determined based on the individual, these diagnostic tests can include:
• Renal ultrasound — non-invasive test utilizing sound waves to produce a picture of the kidney to determine its size, shape and check for masses and cysts
• Kidney biopsy — removal of tissue samples to identify the presence of cancerous or other abnormal cells
• Intravenous pyelogram — series of X-rays of the kidney, ureters and bladder looking for tumors, abnormalities or obstructions
A team determines candidates for transplant based on the evaluations outlined above. People accepted are listed on the United Network for Organ Sharing registry.
What must a recipient do after transplant?
Some combination of medication will need to be taken for the life of the transplanted kidney. These medicines reduce the strength of the immune system, essentially tricking it into not attacking the transplanted organ. The patient’s health care team can manage side effects that may develop from the anti-rejection drugs.
What’s the earliest age a person can become a recipient?
A child older than 2 years can generally receive an adult kidney.
What can I do to become a donor?
April marks Donate Life Month, an ideal time to register as a donor. To learn more, visit donatelifemidwest.org.