Transplantation - the basics
The by many people preferred treatment for kidney failure is a kidney transplant. For most, a transplanted kidney leads to a better quality of life because you no longer have drinking and dietary restrictions, for example. You also don't need to regularly go to dialysis treatment anymore. Furthermore, you usually have a longer life expectancy with a transplant than with dialysis alone. A transplanted kidney usually works almost or even as well as your original kidneys.
What happens with a kidney transplant?
In a kidney transplant, a person with kidney disease receives a kidney from another person that is connected to the bloodstream in your body. This allows the donated kidney to do its job, such as cleansing the blood in your body.
Is a kidney transplant dangerous?
Nowadays, kidney donation is a relatively safe procedure. Thanks to many preliminary examinations, the success rate of a donation has also been greatly increased in recent decades. Medicine has therefore made great progress in recent years. For example, transplantation is now even possible if the donor and recipient have different blood groups. Nowadays, transplantation is an established and routine procedure. Every year, several thousand kidneys are transplanted in Germany for example.
What types of kidney donation are there?
There are two types of kidney donation: living donation by a close relative or acquaintance, and post-mortem donation by an anonymous, deceased person.
What are opt-in and opt-out?
Organ donation is highly regulated because of the desire to prevent abuse and organ trafficking. Many countries even have a separate law to regulate organ transplantation. Different countries have regulated organ donation differently. Germany has an opt-in law. This means that no one is automatically an organ donor unless he/she actively signs up. In Austria, France or Belgium there is an opt-out law, which works the other way round. There, everyone is a donor unless they voluntarily opt out.
What is the organ donor card?
Some countries, for example Germany, use an organ donor card to give consent to organ removal. In it, each person can indicate whether he/she wants to donate organs, and if so, which ones. An organ donor card can be digital or in paper. In it, one can restrict the donation to certain organs or tissues, exclude organ donation or transfer the decision to a certain person of trust. In Germany, the organ donor card is unfortunately not registered and deposited at any official place, but in other countries it is.
What is the transplant list (=waiting list)?
Since there is more demand than available kidneys for transplantation, countries have a transplant list, the so-called waiting list. The independent organization Eurotransplant manages and coordinates this list for many countries in Europe. This is not so easy, because it has to find out which donated kidney has the lowest probability of rejection for whom. On the other hand, the list is based on an open, transparent and morally justifiable point system for organ allocation.
Disadvantages of kidney transplantation
Unfortunately, transplantation also has its disadvantages and is not an option for all kidney patients. For example, after a transplant you will have to take strong medication for the rest of your life, so-called immunosuppressants. It is very important that you do a lot of research before you decide whether or not you want to have a transplant.
How long does the new kidney actually work?
Meanwhile, the chances of success of a transplanted kidney are very good. On average, a transplanted kidney survives well over 10 years today. Even more than 20 years can be possible without further ado. The first year after the kidney transplant is critical. Here you must take special care of yourself and listen to the recommendations of your nephrologist.
However, risk factors such as smoking can reduce this duration. Should the transplanted kidney give up at some point, it will be time again for a replacement therapy by means of dialysis.
Will the "new" kidney then function with certainty?
The fact that your new kidney will function well after a transplant also depends to a large extent on you. You should make sure that you have regular check-ups, take important medication reliably and document important measurements properly.
Did you know…?
…that with a transplant, they don't usually take out your old kidneys? They stay in. So after the transplant, you'll actually have three kidneys!
If you are interested in kidney transplantation, you can find a lot more information about the transplant process, the waiting list and life as a transplant recipient in the Miku app. We are also planning to further expand this content in the future.
Nowadays, kidney transplantation is a routine medical procedure
A kidney donation can be a living donation from a close relative, or a post-mortem donation from an anonymous, deceased person
To be considered for a kidney transplant, you will need to undergo a series of tests that are normally coordinated by your dialysis center