Kidney transplant

Introduction

A kidney transplant is the transfer of a healthy kidney from one person (the donor) into the body of a person who has little or no kidney activity (the recipient).

The most common reason for a kidney transplant is when someone loses most or all of their kidney functions due to chronic kidney disease. The loss of kidney function is known as kidney failure.

The kidneys

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side of the body, just underneath the ribcage. The main role of the kidneys is to filter out waste products from the blood before converting them into urine.

Living donations

A person only needs one kidney to survive. Therefore, unlike other types of organ donation, such as heart and liver, a living person can donate a kidney. Ideally, this will be a close relative.

This type of donation is known as a living donation.

Receiving a donation from a close relative means that there is less risk of the body rejecting the kidney.

Kidney donations are also possible from donors who have recently died. However, this type of kidney donation has a lower chance of long-term success.

How common are kidney donations?

The demand for kidneys in the UK is far higher than the available supply of donors, both living and dead.

The Renal Association is a leading UK kidney charity that runs campaigns for people with kidney disease. It estimates that, each year in the UK, an average of 6,000 people would benefit from a kidney transplant but are unable to have one due to a lack of donors.

Kidney donors are particularly required from people of South Asian origin. Chronic kidney disease is highest in South Asian communities, but the pool of potential donors is much lower than in many other ethnic groups.

Outlook

The outlook for a person who receives a donated kidney will depend to a large extent on a number of factors, including:

  • whether the donation was a living donation or not (living donations usually have a better outlook)
  • whether the donation was from a close relative or someone with the same tissue type (this lowers the risk of the body rejecting the kidney)
  • the age of the person receiving the donation (the younger the person, the better the outlook)

On average, 80% of people who receive a live donation will live for at least five years after receiving the donation (and many people, particularly children, will live much longer).

Around 70% of people who receive a donation from a recently deceased person will live for at least five years after receiving a donation.

Glossary

Donor
A donor is a person (living or dead) who donates blood, an organ or other body parts to another person in need
Kidney
are a pair of bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdomen. They remove waste and extra fluid from the blood and pass them out of the body as urine
Recipient
A recipient is a person who receives donated blood, tissue or an organ from another person
Last updated: 13 April 2011

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