The other method of saving your life after Kidney Failure, is having a Kidney Transplant.
If your kidneys have failed, they may be replaced in a transplant operation by a single healthy kidney from a Donor. The Donor Kidney is joined to the normal blood vessels in the groin of the person getting the new kidney (The Recipient)
If this goes well, it will function normally to clean and balance the blood. One kidney is quite capable of keeping your blood chemistry in balance and removing your waste urea for a lifetime
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However there are some problems to overcome in transplanting the kidney from one person to another
The main problem is that the new kidney comes from a different person, meaning the antigens on the cells surface will be different to yours.
This means there is a risk of the new kidney being rejected by your immune system. When this happens your immune system destroys the new organ. Everything is done to make sure the new kidney is not rejected, but it is always a risk.
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There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of rejection:
- The match between donor and recipient is made as close as it can be. Whenever possible, donor kidneys with a 'Tissue Type' similar to the recipient will be used so their antigens are very similar.
- Also, the recipient of the new kidney will be given drugs that suppress their immune response and stop it work - for the rest of their lives. As these drugs (immunosuppressant drugs) get better, the need for a really close tissue match is getting less important
The down side of the drugs is that the patients can't deal with infectious diseases very well. They have to take a great deal of care if they become ill in anyway. Most people feel this is a small price to pay for a new working kidney.
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Transplanted organs don't last forever
The average transplanted kidney lasts roughly 9 years, and then they have to come back to dialysis until another is found
The advantage of receiving a transplant is that you no longer need to live like someone with Kidney Failure. You can eat what you like and are free from the restrictions of someone on dialysis.
The disadvantages are mainly to do with the risk of rejection. You have to take medicine every day of your life, and you also need regular check ups to make sure your body isn't starting to reject the kidney. The biggest disadvantage though, would be that you may never get the chance for a transplant at all
Dialysis is much more readily available than Transplants, and it does allow you to live a Relatively normal life, the only thing is you need to maintain a special diet, and have regular, long treatment sessions.
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One of the biggest problems in the kidney transplant programme is the lack of donor kidneys. The main source of kidneys is from the people who die suddenly and unexpectedly either from road accidents, or strokes or heart attacks.
In the UK, organs can only be taken from people if they carry an organ donor card, or are on the online register giving permission for their organs to be used in this way - or if the bereaved relatives give consent.
Because many of us do not carry donor cards, there are never enough kidneys to go around. Whats more, as cars become safer, fewer people die in accidents and become potential donors. At any one time there are thousands of people having kidney dialysis who would love to have a kidney transplant but who never get the opportunity.