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Kidney Transplant: What to Expect

For patients seeking a kidney transplant, it can be helpful to understand what to expect before, during, and after transplant surgery. At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, you receive expert care from our kidney transplant specialists at each of these steps. 

As national leaders in kidney transplantation, you can be confident we offer the skills and support you need. Our knowledgeable care team helps you manage the physical, emotional and financial aspects of the transplantation process.

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Before Kidney Transplant: The Evaluation Process

When you come to the Transplant Center for your patient evaluation, you can expect an open discussion to answer any questions you have about kidney transplant. Here’s an overview of the evaluation process:

  • What to expect: The kidney transplant evaluation process involves many steps, all meant to ensure your safety and the effectiveness of your transplant. Our nurse coordinators serve as your advocates during this time, guiding you through the process as seamlessly as possible. Learn more about the kidney transplant process.
  • Who you’ll see: We welcome your family members or caregivers at any or all of your appointments. During the evaluation process, you meet with several specialists, including a:
    • Transplant coordinator
    • Nephrologist (kidney specialist)
    • Surgeon
    • Financial coordinator
    • Dietitian
    • Social worker
  • Tests you’ll undergo: During the kidney transplant evaluation process, you complete medical forms to give us a better picture of your health. Our specialists talk with you at length about transplantation and answer any questions on your mind. We also help you schedule a range of medical testing, which may include:
    • Heart and lung function tests
    • X-rays
    • Blood and urine tests
    • Overall physical examination
    • Consultation with Specialists
  • Next steps: The evaluation process lasts between one and six months. During this time, we give you a set of recommendations to help you achieve your best possible health leading up to surgery. At the end of your evaluation, we determine whether you are eligible to join the national waiting list.
  • Finding a donor: In addition to the waiting list, we pursue multiple avenues to find patients a living kidney donor. Learn more about the benefits of living kidney donor transplant.

Kidney Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Once we find a matching kidney (either through the waiting list or from a living kidney donor), we call you for surgery. When you arrive at the hospital, we:

  1. Admit you to the transplant floor
  2. Recheck your blood work to ensure you are fit for surgery
  3. Take a chest X-ray
  4. Prepare you for surgery, using general aesthesia
  5. Perform the transplant surgery

Our doctors are actively involved in kidney transplant research as part of Washington University. Because of this research, one of our transplant research coordinators may approach you about the benefits of a possible clinical trial shortly before your surgery. Our specialists can explain everything you need to know about the clinical trial, in detail. Participation in research studies is voluntary and not a requirement to receive a kidney transplant at Washington University School of Medicine. 

After kidney transplant surgery, we monitor you closely on our dedicated transplant floor. Most patients stay in the hospital for four days. Learn more about kidney transplant surgery

After Kidney Transplant: Comprehensive Follow-Up Care

As you recover from surgery, the transplant team follows you closely. You reduce your visits with us over time, but we coordinate with your primary care doctor for the rest of your life. This shared approach ensures you receive the highest level of care at all times. Read more about what to expect after kidney transplant.

Here are some helpful notes about post-surgery care:

  • Follow-up care after surgery: After leaving the hospital, you have regular check-ups in our outpatient clinic to monitor your recovery. If you live outside the St. Louis area, you can arrange temporary lodging near the hospital for the first few weeks of observation. Once you are home, you stay in regular contact with your nurse coordinator. You will need to return to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for occasional follow-up exams.
  • Posttransplant success tips: You can help ensure the success of your transplant by:
    • Taking your medications as directed
    • Paying close attention to any side effects or signs of rejection
    • Following a healthy lifestyle, making smart food choices and exercising regularly
    • Seeking support when you need it

Patient and Caregiver Support Services

Kidney transplant is a significant life change that can present various challenges in the weeks and months after transplant surgery. We offer a range of support services to help patients through any obstacles they encounter:

  • Kidney Transplant Support Group: This group offers support and education to our kidney transplant candidates and recipients and their loved ones. By providing a welcoming setting for sharing experiences, the support group helps you better understand and cope with transplant challenges and concerns, including:
    • Lifestyle changes caused by your transplant
    • Financial concerns 
    • Transplant surgery
    • Uncomfortable medication side effects
    • Fear of organ rejection
  • Transplant Mentor Program: Our unique Mentor Program provides patients with information, guidance and emotional support. Your mentor, a patient who has already gone through the kidney transplant process, can be a great source of encouragement and understanding. They can provide firsthand knowledge of their experience as well as tips for living well after kidney transplant.

Contact Us

For more information about the kidney transplant program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.