Kidney transplantation offers the best outcomes and the best quality of life. Successful kidney transplants occur every day in the
United States. Transplanted kidneys may come from living related donors, living unrelated donors, or people who have died of other causes (cadaveric donors). In people with type I diabetes, a combined kidney-pancreas transplant is often a better option.
However, not everyone is a candidate for kidney transplant. Patients need to undergo extensive testing to ensure their suitability for transplantation. Also, there is a shortage of organs for transplantation, requiring patients to wait months to years before getting a transplant.
A person who needs a kidney transplant undergoes several tests to identify characteristics of his or her immune system. The recipient can accept only a kidney that comes from a donor who matches certain of his or her characteristics. The more similar the donor is in these characteristics, the greater the chance of long-term success of the transplant. Transplants from a living related donor generally have the best results.
Transplant surgery is a major procedure and generally requires four to seven days in the hospital. All transplant recipients require lifelong immunosuppressant medications to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new kidney. Immunosuppressant medications require careful monitoring of blood levels and increase the risk of infection as well as some types of cancer.
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