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Kidney Transplant

When an individual's kidneys fail, three treatment options are available: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and kidney transplantation. Many patients feel that a successful kidney transplant provides a better quality of life because it allows greater freedom and often is associated with increased energy levels and a less restricted diet. In making a decision about whether this is the best treatment for you, you may find it helpful to talk to people who already have had a kidney transplant. You also need to speak to your doctor, nurse and family members.

There are two types of kidney transplants: those that come from living donors and those that come from unrelated donors who have died (non-living donors). A living donor may be someone in your immediate or extended family or your spouse or close friend, and in some cases a stranger who wished to donate a kidney to anyone in need of a transplant. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of kidney transplants.

The most important complication that may occur after transplant is rejection of the kidney. The body's immune system guards against attack by all foreign matter, such as bacteria. This defense system may recognize tissue transplanted from someone else as "foreign" and act to combat this "foreign invader." You will need to take medications every day to prevent rejection of your new kidney. Most patients need to take three types. The major one is usually cyclosporine or tacrolimus or sirolimus. In addition, you will most likely be taking some type of steroid and a third medication, such as mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine or rapamycin. Additional treatment may be needed if a rejection episode occurs. Regular checkups at your transplant center will ensure early detection and treatment of rejection.

Kidney transplants, like other treatments for kidney failure, often require following special diet guidelines. If you were on dialysis before, you may find this new diet less restricted. The length of time you must follow the special diet varies. Your progress will be followed closely, and your doctor and dietitian will change your diet as needed.