A kidney transplant is a major operation procedure. The patient affects with pain, delayed wound healing, bleeding and risk of infections.
With any surgery, there are possible risks. Just as with any surgery, transplant surgery is not without risk. Kidney transplant is also a surgical procedure of risks and complications. When deciding whether to get a kidney transplant, it is important that you understand all the possible medical, psychological, and financial risks. After an evaluation, the transplant team can give you information about your level of risk and any out-of-pocket costs of transplant you might have. You can stop pursuing kidney transplant at any point if you decide this is not the right decision for you.
Overall, two to four people out of 100 (2% to 4%) will die in the first year after a kidney transplant. In comparison, the risk of death is twice as high for patients who continue on dialysis while waiting for a kidney transplant. There are several ways of looking at the risks associated with kidney transplantation. While transplant surgery has risks, these need to be measured against one’s quality of life without transplant and/or relying on dialysis long-term.
Risks or complications of the procedure
Kidney transplant surgery carries a risk of significant complications, including:
- Leaking from or blockage of the tube (ureter) that links the kidney to the bladder
- Blood clots
- Failure of the donated kidney
- Rejection of the donated kidney
Anti-rejection medication side effects
After a kidney transplant, you’ll take medications to help prevent your body from rejecting the donor kidney. These medications can cause a variety of side effects, including:
- Bone thinning
- Excessive hair growth
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Increased risk of cancer, particularly skin cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Puffiness (edema)
- Weight gain
Potential for complications due to any general anesthesia – These may include:
- Chipped teeth or a sore throat from the insertion of the breathing tube
- Allergic reaction to medications used to put you to sleep
- Risk of infection from the insertion of I.V. lines
- Risk of a pneumothorax (collapse of the lung) from the insertion of a large I.V. line (used for giving fluids)
- The possibility of requiring mechanical ventilation (a breathing machine or respirator) after surgery
- Risk of death due to problems with the heart or lungs
Medical risks of getting a transplant
The risk of problems from surgery is less than 5% and the risk of death is less than 1%. Possible risks from surgery could include problems from being put to sleep, infection, fever, bleeding and blood clots. Like other surgeries, the recipient will have scars, pain, and fatigue. Every effort is made by the surgical team to reduce these risks.
After transplant, recipients may feel overwhelmed learning about how to care for their kidney. The recipient may feel upset or angry if the donated kidney isn’t working well. The recipient might also feel worried about the costs of the medications. It is important that recipients remain in contact with a transplant social worker to get support.
The costs of the medical tests and surgery are covered by Medicare and/or the recipient’s private insurance. However, the recipient might have to take vacation time from work or pay for childcare, gas, meals, parking, or hotel costs. Some portion of the anti-rejection medicines, which can be expensive, may not be covered afterwards. Donation, in rare circumstances, may impact the ability to obtain or afford health or life insurance.