Understanding kidney transplants: Road to recovery, preventive measures

Identifying kidney disease before it causes too much of kidney damage is essential. Image courtesy: Marko Aliaksandr / Shutterstock

Whenever our body encounters excesses of things that are not needed , the body eliminates them. Kidney plays a vital role in this function. The kidney, an extraordinarily intricate organ assists our body in filtering wastes and thus purifying blood. The waste products and excess fluids are removed from the body and excreted in the urine. A healthy kidney helps to remove waste products and extra minerals from our body through urine. It is vital for our health and well-being to have normally functioning kidneys; hence, if there is a severe degree of kidney failure, it is imperative that you undergo dialysis or a transplant as soon as possible.

When do you need a kidney transplant?

End Stage Kidney failure is a condition when over 85% of the function of the kidneys are lost permanently. At this stage either dialysis or a transplant is needed. A kidney transplant would be the choice for anyone with kidney failure who is medically fit to undergo the surgery. There are many causes for permanent kidney failure. Inherited or congenital conditions are the common cause in children; in adults diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, a group of diseases known as glomerulonephritis, kidney stones, infections in the kidneys, some inherited diseases like polycystic kidney disease and a variety of other diseases cause end-stage kidney failure.

Types of kidney transplants

There are two types of kidney transplants: Living donor transplants and deceased donor transplants. Unfortunately, we live in a state with very low numbers of available diseased organs, even lower than the national average.

The minimum age for living donors is 18 and the maximum is usually around 65, but we can take from older donors as long as they are healthy.

According to law, the related donors are parents, siblings, offspring, grandparents and spouses.

What is the procedure for a kidney transplant?

Once the donor has been identified, the tests are done for the donor to assess medical fitness for kidney donation (pretransplant evaluation); tests are done to ensure that the donor and recipient have matching blood group and tissue typing. The recipient also needs to undergo a series of tests to ensure that the recipient is medically fit to undergo kidney transplant surgery.

Today, kidney can be transplanted, even if the blood group is not matching. Blood group incompatible transplant requires additional treatment, apart from the routine pre-transplant treatment. Another major technical advancement in this area is the availability of robot-assisted kidney transplant surgery; this technique has many major advantages over open surgery.

Post-transplant care: Since the kidney belongs to another person, the recipient’s body may work against the kidney; this process is called rejection. To prevent this process, the transplant recipients must continue to take drugs to ensure the functioning of the transplanted kidney; these medicines have to be continued as long as the kidney functions. Missing medicines may lead to the body rejecting the transplanted kidney.

Prevention is better than a transplant

It is always better to avoid kidney diseases. Identifying kidney disease before it causes too much of kidney damage is essential. If you are a diabetic, you must control your blood pressure and blood sugar very well. Lifestyle modifications, regular exercises, proper diet, avoidance of smoking, regulating your body weight and regular medical checkups are essential to prevent kidney diseases from progressing to advanced kidney failure. Monitoring your serum creatinine, urine examination and blood pressure checkup are ways to diagnose kidney disease very early. March is National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day falls on March 9.

(Information courtesy: Dr V Narayanan Unni Senior Consultant – Nephrology- Aster Medcity Kochi.)

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