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Transplant from a donor who has died

Life after transplant

Getting a transplant is a treatment, not a cure for kidney disease. A transplanted kidney can do 40‒85% of the work of 2 working kidneys. That’s about a half or more.

Life after transplant

Watch this video about life after transplant.

You may have some medical problems after your surgery, such as:

  • Infection – some of the medicines you take after surgery might make it harder for your body to fight infections from viruses and bacteria
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Kidney rejection can also happen. This is when your body’s immune system starts attacking your new kidney. This happens when your body knows that the kidney is from someone else and tries to protect itself by attacking the new kidney. If your body rejects your new kidney, the kidney may stop working and you may need to start dialysis.

If you begin to feel flu-like symptoms including chills, body aches, nausea, cough, fever or shortness of breath, call your transplant coordinator right away. Often, changing your medication regimen can stop your body from rejecting the kidney.

  • 1 out of 10 patients will have rejection symptoms, which may stop with changed medicine
  • 4 out of 100 patients will lose their kidney in the first year due to rejection
  • 21 out of 100 patients will lose their kidney in the first 5 years due to rejection

Even after transplant, you will still need to:

  • Take your medicines every day as your doctor tells you
  • Visit your doctors regularly for follow ups
  • Take care of your health, such by eating healthy foods, limiting alcohol consumption, wearing sunscreen, and making sure to be active each day
    • Talk to your doctor before making any changes to what you eat or how you exercise

What medicines will I need to take?

You will need to take some of the medicines you took before your transplant plus some new ones. You will have to take some of these medicines for the rest of your life.

It’s important to take your medicine after transplant

Take your medicine every day just as your doctor tells you. Never stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor.

Why is it important?

Missing even 1 dose can cause your body to reject the new kidney.

What if I can’t get or take my medicine?

Call your transplant center right away for help. Don’t wait, not even for a day. Your doctor can help you if:

  • You’re having side effects from the medicine or your body is rejecting the kidney – your doctor can make changes to your medicine
  • You feel the cost of your medicines are too high – don’t stop your medicines to save money

How long will my new kidney work?

Kidneys from donors who have died usually last about 10-15 years. Some donated kidneys have lasted 20-30 years, and some fail right away. Kidneys from living relatives last the longest, and kidneys from older or sick donors last the shortest.

Can I contact my donor’s family?

icon for kidney transplant from live donor

Many people who get a transplant want to say thank you or share progress with their donor’s family. You can contact your donor’s family through writing, which is often done anonymously without sharing your name or knowing their name. Ask your transplant social worker about how to contact your donor’s family.

If you’re unsure what to say or how to say it, you can use these resources:

Leaders in transplant excellence

UNOS works with leading educational partners to provide accurate, trustworthy health information. Our educational partners include:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Duke University School of Medicine
Emory University
Johns Hopkins University
Mount Sinai Hospital
Northwestern University
Temple University
University of California, Los Angeles

Special thanks to our corporate sponsor for supporting excellence in transplant education:
Sanofi

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