Organ Transplantation

What happens when the kidneys don’t work properly?

Sometimes kidney function can change quickly. For example, your kidneys may stop working properly because of a sudden loss of large amounts of blood (e.g., during surgery) or as a result of an accident, illness or infection. A sudden change in kidney function is called acute kidney injury. This is often temporary but can occasionally lead to lasting kidney damage.

More often kidney function worsens over a number of years – it is a chronic, or ongoing, condition. Chronic kidney disease (also referred to as CKD) is called a silent disease as there are often no warning signs. Sometimes people lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before getting any symptoms.


A kidney transplant is treatment for kidney failure but it is not a cure. A transplant offers a more active life, without needing dialysis. However, your new kidney requires ongoing care. You will need to take medications to stop your body rejecting the kidney (anti-rejection) for as long as you have the transplanted kidney.

Are kidney transplants successful?

Kidney transplants are very successful. On average, 95 per cent of transplants are working one year later. If the transplant works well for the first year, the chances are good that it will function very well for many years. Success rates are higher with living donor kidneys than for deceased donor kidneys.

The kidney transplant process

Every donor and recipient will need to undergo pre-transplant work up, these tests are to make sure that both your body and mind are healthy enough for you to have the kidney transplant surgery and take the medications after surgery. These tests are often called the transplant work-up.

Medical tests that are used to assess your health before a transplant include:

  • Assessment of your overall health, including your weight
  • Blood tests
  • Dental check
  • Pap smear and mammogram (females) or prostate tests (males)
  • X-rays and other tests of your heart and lungs
  • Tests involving your arteries, veins and bladder. 
  • Living Donor assessment

The Kidney Transplant Team members include:

  • Transplant Surgeons
  • Transplant Nephrologists
  • Transplant Coordinators
  • Transplant Fellows and Residents
  • Transplant Program Assistants
  • Financial Counselors
  • Dietitians
  • Transplant Psychiatrist
  • Transplant Pharmacists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Registered Nurses
  • Nursing Assistants

Living with your new kidney

You should be able to return to normal activities and work within three to six months of your transplant. You will need to allow time for your wound to heal and for your stomach muscles to get strong again. Regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy. It is recommended that you start with gentle exercise first. It is recommended that you do not drive a car until six weeks after your transplant. You should also avoid any heavy lifting for six weeks.

You will need to manage your medications carefully. It is important that you take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

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