Kidney Transplant Surgery

Kidney failure can be life threatening if not treated properly. Kidney failure can come from:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Chronic glomerulonephritis
  • Polycystic kidney disease

A kidney transplant is one solution to treat a nonfunctioning kidney. Dialysis is another option if you are not qualified for a kidney transplant. Speak with your doctor about your options.

What is a kidney transplant?

Kidney function is essential to cleansing blood. A kidney transplant is a procedure in which someone receives a new kidney. If a kidney transplant is successful the recipient has a functioning kidney and no longer needs dialysis.

Maine’s only transplant program

Maine Medical Center has Maine's only transplant program. At the Maine Transplant Program, patients can receive the care they need close to home. For donors who are not a match to the recipient, the Kidney Paired Donation matches a donor and recipient to another donor and recipient pair.  Then each donor can give their kidney to the other recipient.

You need to meet certain guidelines to be eligible for transplant. Those who have the following are not typically eligible:

  • Certain infections, such as TB, bone infections or hepatitis
  • Inability to take multiple daily medications
  • Recent history of cancer
  • Heart, lung or liver disease
  • Mental illness
  • Life-threatening diseases
  • High-risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, etc.

Patients are put on the national waiting list when they pass the preliminary tests. Patients will continue testing to ensure compatibility with current possible donors. Preliminary tests will be performed before a transplant. These tests check for compatibility issues with the donor organ, infections or illnesses, and baseline measurement of heart and brain functions. Donor organs need to be compatible with the patient's blood type and tissue type. Testing for antibodies and illnesses, such as HIV and hepatitis, is done. Kidney donations can come from a living donor, such as a family member or friend, or someone who is deceased. A transplant will be scheduled as soon as a donor is matched.

Immunosuppressant medication will be administered to the patient before and after the operation to avoid rejection of the donor kidney. This medication may have side effects. Speak with your doctor about the procedure and which medicine may be right for you.

Here is what to expect during the kidney transplant procedure:

  • The patient will go under anesthesia.
  • The patient undergoes the procedure, which takes approximately four hours to complete.
  • The patient will be taken to the recovery room for two or more hours.
  • The hospital stay is three to seven days.
  • Follow-up appointments will help make sure recovery is on track.
  • Patients are usually back to work within four to eight weeks.