About Kidney Transplantation

A kidney transplant is a procedure in which a surgeon implants a healthy kidney from either a living or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys are no longer functioning. For people with kidney failure (also known as end-stage renal disease), kidney transplantation is often the best treatment option. It may also be the best option for those experiencing complications from diabetes.

At the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), our multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinical and administrative staff will support you along the transplant journey.

We will explain what to expect before, during, and after your transplant, and our team will always be available to answer your questions or concerns.

For comprehensive information about receiving a kidney transplant at RWJUH, download the Transplant Candidate Education Program brochure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about kidney transplants.

What are the benefits and risks of having a kidney transplant?

A successful transplant can improve your quality of life tremendously. You will have more energy, you won’t need dialysis, and you may even be able to get back to feeling the way you felt before you got kidney disease. There is a risk that your body may reject the kidney, so you would have to take anti-rejection medications as a preventive measure. You also may have a higher risk for infection and certain types of cancers.

When should I consider a transplant?

If your kidneys are failing, talk with your physician about whether a kidney transplant is right for you. Getting an early start on the transplant process not only leads to better outcomes overall, but it can also contribute to a better quality of life after transplant.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for a transplant, you will need to be evaluated by the transplant team. They will need to determine whether you are healthy enough for a transplant. They will run blood tests, and other exams to test the strength of your heart and other organs. They will also evaluate your mental and emotional health. They'll talk with you about employment, your social support system as it relates to post-transplant care, your ability to comply with a medication regimen, nutrition, and insurance and other issues involved in financing your transplant.

Your Transplant Coordinator will work closely with you to ensure that your evaluation is completed as quickly as possible. This should take no longer than 90 days in most circumstances, and many times the evaluation can be completed in much less time.

If a serious health problem is found or if there are psychological or social barriers that cannot be resolved, it is possible that you may not be able to receive a transplant.

Absolute contraindications or disqualifying conditions for kidney transplant may include:

  • Severe coronary heart disease
  • Severe heart failure
  • Severe peripheral vascular (blood vessel) disease
  • Severe psychiatric illness, uncontrolled with medication
  • Untreated psychiatric condition(s), including suicide risk
  • Chronic infections (unresolved)
  • Advanced pulmonary (lung) disease
  • Advanced liver disease
  • Advanced cancer
  • Chronic proven non-adherence with medication and/or prescribed treatment(s)
  • Active substance abuse or treated substance abuse with a high risk of relapse
  • Morbid obesity with poor functional status
  • Age 80 or older (Age 70-80 must have a living donor and meet clinical criteria)
  • Absence of funding for transplant procedure, hospital charges and/or medications
  • Poor social support, including absence of confirmed family caregivers during the immediate post-transplant period.
  • Multiple medical conditions and/or psychosocial risk factors which, in combination, would make transplantation too high-risk

Residency status may preclude listing for deceased donor transplant.

How long will I wait for a kidney?

Kidney matches depend on the availability of donor organs, whether you are a match for blood type and tissue type, and are otherwise a medically suitable match. If you know someone who is a match who is willing to donate their kidney as a living donor, your surgery may be scheduled quickly. Otherwise, your name will be entered into a national database and placed on a waiting list with patients from all over the country and from many other transplant programs. Length of time on the list also plays a role in who will get a matched organ that is available.

Though the length of time on the list is unpredictable, there are a few things you should do to make sure you are ready when the time comes. Read more about what to do while waiting for your kidney.

What is the surgery like?

Great question. We have a whole page just on this topic! Read "What to Expect Before, During, and After Your Kidney Transplant."

Additional Resources

Below are links to some educational brochures about kidney transplantation from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Patient Stories

  • "I tell him he’s Superman and he can do no wrong,” Brian says. "It’s such a great gesture that it’s hard to put into words and say something that would do it justice."

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  • “Don’t let hopelessness consume you. It can happen anytime. The seventh time I got a call, it was a miracle match.”

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