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Kidney Transplant Surgery

trasnplant surgery imageKidney transplant is the most common type of major-organ transplant operation in the United States. The Lourdes Regional Organ Transplantation Center has a depth of experience in the field, stretching across decades of providing this operation successfully – a service that has saved lives and returned health and function to many recipients. A point of pride at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes and in the Virtua system, the kidney transplantation program works hard to provide as many eligible candidates as possible with this life-renewing form of care.

After patients complete the evaluation and the team places them on the waiting list, they have the opportunity to meet with their surgeon to review the surgical procedure, including the risks and benefits of the operation and of transplant medications.   Whether patients ultimately receive a living kidney donor transplant or a deceased donor kidney transplant, they remain in close contact with the nurse coordinator throughout the pre-transplant process. Once the surgery is set to begin, loved ones are directed to a waiting area where the hospital staff and operating-room team will continually keep them updated.   The organ may be transported in cold storage from the location where it is removed from deceased donor.

The transplant surgery involves an incision in the lower abdomen where the transplanted kidney is placed.   For safer outcomes from the operation, the patient’s existing kidneys, now minimally functioning, are usually left in place (unless they are causing complications) and the team implants the donor kidney in a nearby location with its own points of access to the circulatory system. (The blood vessels to which the transplanted kidney is connected also provide blood supply to the legs.   Therefore, evaluation for vascular disease is very important prior to transplant.) The surgeon then connects the ureter from the new kidney to the recipient’s bladder.  With its attachments to the urinary and circulatory system complete, the kidney is generally ready to begin functioning right away.

The surgery can take up to several hours to complete. After surgery, patients go to a surgical recovery room, where the staff closely monitors them, and the surgeon meets with family members or support persons to further review the course of events and patient status.   If kidney function is temporarily delayed, dialysis may be necessary.

transplant surgery image 2The patient remains in the hospital for at least the several days it normally takes for the new kidney to reach full function and for the individual to recover from the surgery.   The post-surgical stay is usually four to five days.

The center’s transplant coordinators work with the team of nephrologists, transplant surgeons, nurses, social workers and other medical staff to assure a smooth transition to surgery and beyond, including advising on financial coverage, follow-up care and home-health services.   Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes patients have the services of coordinators specifically designated as pre- or post-transplant coordinators.

Unless their identical twin donates the kidney, patients begin a lifetime of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the donor kidney.

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