A kidney transplant is the best treatment option for kidney failure. Acıbadem Healthcare Group is a leading destination for kidney transplant surgery in Turkey.
A kidney transplant is an operation for patients with kidney failure. Healthy kidneys have many functions, including filtering waste products and toxins, secreting erythropoietin to prompt the production of red blood cells, and releasing renin to help control blood pressure. When the kidneys are not working well, it affects vital body functions and causes problems to the heart, lungs, and bones. Advanced loss of kidney function is known as kidney failure or end-stage renal disease. People suffering from kidney failure need dialysis or a kidney transplant to live. Dialysis can be a lifesaving option, but the machine cannot replace all functions of a healthy organ. Studies show that successful kidney transplantation provides better quality of life and life expectancy compared to dialysis. In the long run, it is also more cost-effective than dialysis.
During a kidney transplant surgery, the recipient receives a healthy organ from a deceased or living kidney donor. The new kidney is placed in the abdomen and connected to the blood vessels and the bladder. Damaged kidneys are usually not removed unless they cause problems. A kidney transplant is a major surgery and success rates depend on many factors, including the experience of the transplant center and its team.
All over the world, despite all efforts, there is a shortage of organs from deceased donors. However, people can live healthy lives with just one healthy kidney. Therefore, a living donor kidney transplant are an alternative to long waiting lists for some patients. Healthy people willing to help a loved one can opt for a live kidney donation. In the best case, the donor and recipient have the same tissue type and compatible blood types. However, today there are effective solutions for successful living donor transplants even if the donor is not compatible. Sometimes one recipient–donor couple may be paired with another couple, and the donated kidneys can be exchanged. This is called paired donation or crossover transplant. Paired donation ensures that each recipient receives a matching kidney.
In Turkey, international patients can only apply for living donor kidney transplants. They must have a donor who is willing to donate willingly. The donor criteria for living kidney donation are age 25 or above, relatives up to 4th degree or approved by the ethical committee, with healthy kidney function, and in good overall health. At Acıbadem Kidney Transplant Center, a detailed preoperative evaluation makes living donation a safe procedure—a donor is not allowed to donate if there is a risk to their health in the future.
Before a living donor kidney transplant, both the donor and the recipient are subject to detailed lab tests, image diagnostics, and physical exams to assess their eligibility for the surgery. Once the evaluation is completed, the operation can be scheduled. At Acıbadem Kidney Transplant Center, donors can benefit from a minimally invasive surgery called laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, which is performed through a small incision for faster recovery. Advanced surgical techniques allow the removal of the kidney through a single port, the belly button, or the birth canal in women (NOTES procedure). The recipient is usually brought to the intensive care unit to be closely monitored immediately after the transplant. If the kidney comes from a living donor, it usually works right away or soon after the surgery.
Infants and children of all ages might need a kidney transplant. In pediatric patients, the most common causes of kidney failure are congenital anomalies and genetic conditions. Inborn disorders of the urinary tract that affect multiple organs may pose significant difficulties for a kidney transplant in children. They might require additional surgeries, such as an open vesicostomy or bladder augmentation. The Acıbadem Transplant Center has broad experience with neonatal and pediatric kidney patients, including complex cases and combined liver–kidney transplants. Our graft and patient survival in pediatric kidney transplants is 100%.
After the kidney transplant surgery, patients have to spend a few days in the hospital to recover. They are closely monitored for any complications, such as bleeding or infection. Most patients can walk the day after the transplant surgery. At Acıbadem Kidney Transplant Center, the donor usually stays in the hospital for two days. The recipient is discharged after seven days. Transplanted patients can go back to their normal life within a few weeks. They will have to take medicines called immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives to prevent their body from rejecting the new organ. Regular follow-up examinations are needed in the first months after surgery to ensure that the kidney works well and the immunosuppressive drugs are properly adjusted.
Life after kidney transplantation is similar to life before kidney failure. After a successful renal transplant, the recipient does not need dialysis, has no significant food restrictions, and feels in good overall condition. Still, these patients have to follow some rules to keep the transplanted organ healthy. Active living, healthy habits, and a diet low in salt and fat are recommended for a lifetime. Immunosuppressive medications should be taken every day as prescribed. The most common reason for organ rejection is an irregular intake of anti-rejection drugs. Kidney transplant rejection symptoms are often mild; therefore, regular tests and checkups are a must. In most cases, experienced physicians can handle organ rejection.
A transplanted kidney has no expiration date. It may last a lifetime for some patients, while others may need several transplants throughout their life. The life of a transplanted organ depends on many factors, including the general health of donor and the recipient, whether the donor was living or deceased, and the cause of transplantation (a persisting condition could harm the new kidney just like the natural one). Even if the transplanted kidney fails, the patient can still start dialysis or opt for a second transplant called retransplantation.
In 2020, a woman living in France celebrated 50 years of active life after a kidney transplant. A man who received a transplant in 1971 is believed to be one of the longest surviving kidney transplant patients in the UK. Another man who received a transplant in June 1977 is thought to be the longest surviving patient in Asia. These are all transplants performed many years ago. Nowadays, surgical techniques and immunosuppressive drugs are much more sophisticated, and kidney recipients can expect even better outcomes.
Kidney transplant outcomes have improved dramatically in the last decades. Developments in surgical techniques, advanced understanding of the immune system and immunosuppressive regimens, and better anti-microbial treatment options contribute to a higher kidney transplant survival rate. However, kidney transplantation is still a highly specialized medical intervention. Success rates depend greatly on the medical center and the team responsible for the operation and long-term follow-up. At Acıbadem Kidney Transplant Centers, the graft survival rate is 99% after the first year and 94% in the fifth year. The patient survival rate is 99% in the first year and 95% in the fifth year.
Turkey is a global leader in renal transplantation, with more than 3,500 kidney transplants performed per year. Since cadaver organ donation is not sufficient globally, 80% of kidney transplants in Turkey are done with living donors. Transplant programs and success rates are well regulated and strictly monitored by the Ministry of Health. The transplant centers are regularly assessed, and their success rate should be more than 85%. Many patients from all over the world prefer Turkey for kidney transplantation due to the extensive experience, affordable cost, and high success rates of transplant centers.
Our kidney transplant surgeons perform more than 300 surgeries a year, with success rates above the world’s average. Acıbadem Kidney Transplant Center also offers: