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Transplant Essentials


Kidney Transplantation - waiting

How long will I be on the list for kidney transplantation?

  • You will be on the list until you either are transplanted or your overall health status deteriorates to the point where you can no longer be considered for transplantation.

  • The waiting time can vary substantially between transplant centers and between different regions of the country.

How can I shorten my wait for kidney transplantation?

  • The best way to shorten the waiting time is to find a living donor. Get the word out to your family members and friends and ask them to spread the word to their contacts.

  • Another option is to consider listing at an additional center(s) where the wait time is shorter than where you are listed.

How are deceased donor organs allocated (i.e., given out)? How is a patient chosen from the waiting list for deceased donor transplantation?

  • The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the national waiting list for organs.

  • Deceased donor organs are allocated to those who are active on the list.

  • Donor and recipient should have the same group for deceased donor transplantation. Rh positivity and negativity does not matter. That mean Rh positive or negative patients can get kidney form a positive or negative donor.

  • All recipients who are on the waiting list for a given blood group will be given points based on their wait time (1 point for each 1 year on the list or year on dialysis). Patients will also get additional points for their antibody (PRA) level, which is a measure of how difficult it is to find a compatible donor. A particularly good match will also be awarded points. When a kidney becomes available, the patient who has the highest number of points will be offered the kidney. If that patient is not suitable to undergo transplantation, then the offer will be given to patient with the next highest points on the list.

How to take care of my health while on the list for kidney transplantation?

  • It is important that you stay healthy and active. You can do this by maintaining regular visits with your kidney and primary care doctors and following their advice regarding medical treatment, dialysis, nutrition, dialysis, exercise, and abstinence from drug use. Many centers and insurance companies will not offer kidney transplantation to patients who smoke cigarettes. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight (general body mass index goal is 18-35) through sensible diet and lifestyle habits.

  • Vaccinations should be up to date. Live virus vaccinations including the shingles, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and HPV vaccinations should be considered as soon as possible and at least 6 weeks prior to an anticipated transplant. In addition, kidney transplant recipients should be up to date on tetanus, influenza, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccinations.

  • Any major changes to your health should be communicated to the transplant center(s) where you are listed.

What other tests are required while on the list for my kidney transplantation?

  • Depending on your age and health status, you may be asked to undergo periodic testing while on the waiting list. For example, those with a history of significant heart disease or risk factors for heart disease may be asked to obtain yearly heart testing. Routine cancer screening should be kept up to date. This includes pap smear testing and mammograms for women in appropriate age groups, colonoscopy testing for adults over age 50.

  • Some transplant centers may require that you be seen in their clinic periodically while on their transplant waiting list. This allows a transplant center to ensure that you are still meet their medical criteria to be considered for transplant and allows for the chance to update your health status, caregiver, or insurance information.

  • You may want to visit your transplant center to hear any policy or personnel changes that may have occurred at their center.

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