Kidneys perform critical functions for the human body such as:

  • Removing waste products from the blood
  • Balancing the nutrients and chemicals in the blood
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Maintaining fluid
  • Producing hormones that stimulate red blood cell production

Your kidneys are bean-shaped and weigh approximately 6 ounces. They are located behind the upper abdominal organs on either side of your spine.

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Some of the most common causes of kidney failure include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney stones
  • Inherited conditions
  • Diseases of the glomeruli and nephrons (filtration components of the kidney)

If there is extensive damage to your kidneys and you develop what is known as end-stage renal disease, dialysis is required to eliminate waste and excess chemicals from the blood.

Because end-stage renal disease is permanent and irreversible, patients who undergo dialysis will have to do so for life, unless they receive a transplant. A kidney transplant recipient is often able to have a better quality of life due to a return to normal activities, a less restrictive diet, and improved energy levels.

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Organ Matching

Transplant patients, who are accepted by the Center for Transplant Services, must be registered on the national organ waitlist to be matched with a deceased kidney donor. Transplant candidates who have possible living donors are also listed until their transplant surgery is scheduled. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a centralized computer network linking all Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) and transplant centers. The OPO that procures and allocates organs for the Center for Transplant Services is Translife, located in Orlando Florida. UNOS organ placement specialists operate the network 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

When an organ becomes available, the procuring OPO accesses the UNOS computer system, enters information about the donated organ, runs the match program and coordinates the surgical recovery team. The computer generates a list of patients ranked according to objective medical criteria such as:

  • Blood type
  • HLA tissue type
  • Percent reactive antibody (PRA) results

Other factors include the time spent on the waiting list and distance between the donor and transplant center. The criteria differ for each type of organ.

The computerized matching process locates the best possible matches between donated organs and the patients who need them. The final decision to accept an organ rests with the patient's transplant team.

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The Five Steps In Organ Matching

  1. An organ is donated
  2. A list of potential recipients is generated
  3. The transplant center is notified of an available organ
  4. The transplant team and patient consider the organ
  5. The organ is accepted or declined

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The Transplantation Procedure

Kidney transplantation is the procedure in which a healthy kidney is surgically placed in the lower abdomen of a patient with end-stage renal disease. The donated kidney may come from a living donor or from someone who has died.

In most cases the patient's existing kidneys are not removed. The transplanted kidney is usually placed in a location different from the original kidney and then connected to an alternative blood supply.