Kidney Transplant Process
Westchester Medical Center enjoys a long and illustrious history in kidney transplantation, having performed well over 2100 kidney transplants since the program opened in 1989. We are the only transplant program in the Hudson Valley region of New York, offering the complement of available modalities including deceased donor as well as living donor transplantation, with the latest state-of-the-art techniques in laparoscopic donor retrieval. We offer access to the UNOS kidney paired exchange program and support internal swaps as well.
There are a number of reasons why people need kidney and other organ transplants. In general, transplantation is necessary to preserve life in the case of critical organ failure such as heart, liver and bone marrow. Transplantation enables most patients with kidney failure to be free from dialysis and provides improved quality as well as extended life expectancy.
Kidney transplantation involves an operation to implant the donor organ. In most cases, the native kidneys are not removed. Immediately before the surgery and for the lifespan of the transplanted kidney, the transplant recipient receives immunosuppressive therapy to prevent rejection of the organ.
In general, kidney transplantation involves four phases:
- The evaluation and listing phase
- The pre-transplant waiting phase
- The transplant surgery
- The postoperative care and maintenance phase
The kidney transplant evaluation at Westchester Medical Center
There is a formal process that all transplant centers--including Westchester Medical Center--must perform to determine if a patient is eligible for a transplant. The transplant process begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the patient conducted by a multidisciplinary team consisting of the nephrologist (kidney doctor), surgeon, transplant coordinator, social worker, nutritionist and financial coordinator. Patients are scheduled for appropriate testing, such as stress tests, echocardiograms and breathing function tests. Additional examination or testing may also be necessary.
After the initial evaluation and testing is completed, the transplant team reviews the results to determine if the patient meets the criteria for transplantation. Patients and their referring physicians are eventually notified of the team’s decision to place the patient on the national waiting list for an organ.
All prospective patients receive comprehensive education about the kidney transplantation process. As part of that process, the transplant coordinator will explore the possibility of identifying a living donor, perhaps a family member or friend with each patient. It is also possible that living donors might be found among co-workers, or someone from your church or place of worship. Patients who receive a transplant from a living donor (as compared to a transplant from deceased donor) generally can be transplanted much sooner and can expect better outcomes. If someone is interested in becoming a living donor, there is a separate, but similar process of evaluation. Following evaluation and listing, patients are expected to return to the Westchester Medical Center's Transplant Center every 12-18 months for reevaluation. This is done to ensure that candidates remain medically suitable to undergo transplant, as medical conditions often change over time. Ongoing communication between the referring physician, the Transplant Center and the patient is crucial in ensuring that patients remain healthy for transplantation.
Waiting for a kidney
The amount of waiting time for a deceased donor kidney varies significantly, based on factors such as blood type and antibody levels in the blood. The transplant team can give you a better sense of your individual situation during your evaluation.
There are several ways to shorten the waiting time for a transplant – the most important of which is transplantation with an organ from a living donor. Most transplant programs encourage candidates to consider living donor transplantation. Living donor transplant not only shortens wait time, but also results in significantly longer graft survival and function. Even if an individual donor proves to be incompatible with a particular candidate, there are still possibilities for getting transplanted through an exchange between donor and recipient pairs.
Kidney transplantation has many advantages, such as a lifestyle free from dialysis and fewer fluid and dietary restrictions. Kidney transplants, when successful, usually provide a better quality of life for most people, and they are less expensive than dialysis in the long run.
The Kidney Transplant Center at Westchester Medical Center regularly performs living donor kidney transplants which provides improved graft survival rates, a decrease in immunosuppressive therapy and the ability to plan the time of transplantation. Today's kidney donors also benefit from minimally invasive procedures, reducing surgery and recovery time.
Our kidney transplant team works closely with other specialists at Westchester Medical Center, including those in oncology, OB/GYN, pediatrics, cardiology, etc., to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care. We offer patients unique access to all their medical treatments in one location. Each patient is assigned a dedicated patient coordinator to bridge the gap between the various medical specialists involved in that their care.
Post-operative kidney care
Patients must be ready, willing and able to take responsibility for their health (self) care or must have a family member who will do this for them. Self-care includes taking all medicines as directed, completing all scheduled testing and check-ups, showing up at all appointments as directed by their health care providers--and rescheduling if an appointment is missed. Kidney transplantion patients have to take a number of essential medications to maintain the health of their transplanted organ, prevent infection, and treat common medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Following transplantation, dietary changes are likely necessary and have to be followed. For example, if a patient experiences any fever or illness he/she must report this immediately to the transplant center physician or nurse. If the patient or family experience any problems obtaining medicines or if there is a change in insurance coverage, they should promptly call the transplant staff so that they may help resolve these issues. If a patient receives any new medicatioin prescribed by another physician, the Medical Center's Transplant staff should be notified promptly as there may be significant drug interactions with essential transplant-related medication you might already be taking.
A successful transplant operation is not the end of the transplant experience – it is only the beginning. The best is yet to come! Transplant is a lifelong partnership between the patient and the transplant team. Transplant patients are followed by our team at Westchester Medical Center very closely for the first few months after surgery, and then less frequently as time goes on. Even as patients transition back to the care of their referring doctor, the transplant team continues to see patients annually, for life.
A kidney transplant is a precious resource and often gives patients a new lease on life. It is important that patients keep appointments at the Transplant Center, follow the advice of the team on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, and faithfully take their medications.
Diseases we treat
A kidney transplant is necessary when a patient is diagnosed with end stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD). Some of the more common causes of ESRD include Diabetes, Hypertension (high blood pressure), Polycystic Kidney Disease, Lupus and Glomerulonephritis.
Learn more about the kidney transplant process at Westchester Medical Center
For more information, see our kidney transplant patient guide or contact us:
Kidney Transplant Center
Lower Level, A wing
100 Woods Rd.
Valhalla, NY 10595
Phone: (914) 493-1990
FAX: (914) 493-2419