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1. What types of kidney and pancreas transplants are out there?
Kidney transplant can be from a deceased or live person. Kidney from a live donor usually lasts longer and has fewer complications after the surgery. A pancreas transplant can only be from a deceased donor since every person has only one pancreas.
2. Who can receive a kidney or pancreas transplant?
Patients with end stage kidney disease who are on dialysis can be enrolled in the list to receive a kidney. Patients who are not on dialysis yet can still apply if their kidney function is significantly low. Your transplant nephrologist will evaluate you and recommends referral to the transplant center when it is the right time. Patients with irreversible pancreas dysfunction like type I diabetes can apply to receive a pancreas transplant.
3. Which patient can donate a kidney?
Kidney donors must be very healthy. They will go through extensive tests in the transplant center to make sure donation does not put their lives in danger. Diabetes, severe hypertension, kidney failure and significant loss of protein in the urine are among important reasons which revoke their rights to donate their kidneys.
4. Do people after transplant need specific medications?
People after kidney or pancreas transplant need to be on immunosuppressive medications for their whole lives. These medications lower immune systems and prevent body from rejecting the new organs. Body only recognizes it's own organs and severely reacts to foreign organs.
5. What are the complications of these medications?
Since these medications lower the immune system, they increase risk of infection. Patients after kidney or pancreas transplant must be under close care to adjust the dose and blood levels of these medications. Metabolism of these medications is different in different people and there is a long list of drug interactions. Always consult your transplant nephrologist before starting a new medication or changing the dose.
6. Can transplant increase survival?
Studies show that, overall patients live longer after kidney or pancreas transplant. Quality of life is higher too. Patients on hemodialysis need to receive dialysis about 3 times a week, while kidney transplant makes the patient dialysis free. As long as they are under close observation by the physician, they can live happy lives.
7. What are the other side effects of transplant?
The major side effect is infection due to immunosuppressive medications. Some patients get unusual infections due to unsual bacteria or viruses, with severe protracted courses. Wound infection may happen after surgery. Urinary tract infection is also more common due to surgery on the bladder and urinary tracts. The other major complication can be cancer due to low immune system. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in these patients.
8. Is it possible to receive another kidney transplant if the first one fails?
It is not uncommon to see patients with failed kidney transplant getting listed for the second kidney. The risk of surgery or rejection may be higher for the second transplant, since body is already sensitized to the foreign organ and may show severe reaction if another organ enters into it.
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