Kidney transplantation or renal transplantation is the organ transplant of a kidney into a patient with end-stage renal disease. Kidney transplantation is typically classified as deceased-donor (formerly known as cadaveric) or living-donor transplantation depending on the source of the donor organ.
Living-donor renal transplants are further characterized as genetically related (living-related) or non-related (living-unrelated) transplants, depending on whether a biological relationship exists between the donor and recipient.
Exchanges and chains are a novel approach to expand the living donor pool. In February 2012, this novel approach to expand the living donor pool resulted in the largest chain in the world, involving 60 participants organized by the National Kidney Registry. In 2014 the record for the largest chain was broken again by a swap involving 70 participants.
Contraindications include both cardiac and pulmonary insufficiency, as well as hepatic disease and some cancers. Concurrent tobacco use and morbid obesity are also among the indicators putting a patient at a higher risk for surgical complications.
Kidney transplant requirements vary from program to program and country to country. Many programs place limits on age (e.g. the person must be under a certain age to enter the waiting list) and require that one must be in good health (aside from the kidney disease). Significant cardiovascular disease, incurable terminal infectious diseases and cancer are often transplant exclusion criteria. In addition, candidates are typically screened to determine if they will be compliant with their medications, which is essential for survival of the transplant. People with mental illness and/or significant on-going substance abuse issues may be excluded.
Kidney transplantation is a life-extending procedure. The typical patient will live 10 to 15 years longer with a kidney transplant than if kept on dialysis. The increase in longevity is greater for younger patients, but even 75-year-old recipients (the oldest group for which there is data) gain an average four more years of life. People generally have more energy, a less restricted diet, and fewer complications with a kidney transplant than if they stay on conventional dialysis.
Some studies seem to suggest that the longer a patient is on dialysis before the transplant, the less time the kidney will last. It is not clear why this occurs, but it underscores the need for rapid referral to a transplant program. Ideally, a kidney transplant should be pre-emptive, i.e., take place before the patient begins dialysis. The reason why kidneys fail over time after transplantation has been elucidated in recent years. Apart from recurrence of the original kidney disease, also rejection (mainly antibody-mediated rejection) and progressive scarring (multifactorial) play a decisive role. Avoiding rejection by strict medication adherence is of utmost importance to avoid failure of the kidney transplant.