Kidney transplant surgery has been in existence for several decades and can often be routine, although it may be more complicated if other illnesses are involved. The surgeon will place the new kidney inside your body, in the pelvis between your upper thigh and abdomen, connecting it to an artery and vein. As your blood flows through the new kidney, the kidney begins to make urine. The new kidney may begin working immediately or it may take a few days to several months. In most cases, your own kidneys will not be removed. A stent is usually left in place in the ureter that drains the urine from the kidney to the bladder. The stent is usually removed in the physician's office using a small flexible scope, four to six weeks after the surgery.
The kidney transplant surgery lasts between three and six hours. After surgery, you will be taken to the transplant floor and placed in a special ICR section for a day or two. You will then transferred to the regular transplant unit, where, barring complications, you will remain for 5-7 days. Because of the risk of infection, visitation by family members may be limited. Various intravenous (I.V.) drains will gradually be removed, as you are carefully monitored by the healthcare team.
Infection and rejection are the major complications after transplant surgery. Your body's immune system views the new kidney as a foreign agent and tries to fight against it. Rejection is one of the hurdles that must be overcome to reach the final goal of fully functioning transplanted kidney. Today, there are many good anti-rejection drugs that will counteract a rejection episode, allowing the kidney to work at the expected level. With some new medications acute rejection episodes are experienced less frequently than in the past, but remain a serious threat to the long-term success of your kidney transplant.
Because of possible rejection, you must take immunosuppressive medication for the rest of your life. Since your immune system is suppressed as a result of fighting rejection, infections of various types can occur. Prophylactic antibiotics are given to you after surgery to attempt to prevent the most serious infections. Rejection and infection can be effectively treated if detected early, so close follow-up care is essential in the early post-transplant period.
Between 60 and 70 adult and pediatric kidney transplants are performed at Stony Brook University Hospital annually with excellent immediate surgical and long term results. With recent advances, the average hospital stay is five to seven days. Most transplant recipients can expect to lead normal, healthy lives after surgery. The term graft survival refers to the continuing successful function of the transplanted kidney. The rate of graft survival at Stony Brook is 90% after one year.