Your Hospital Stay
After your transplant surgery at Rush University Medical Center, you will spend time in the surgical intensive care unit for close monitoring. Most people are transferred to the transplant unit the day after surgery. Planning for your discharge from the hospital will begin almost as soon as you come out of surgery. Kidney transplant recipients typically go home within four to seven days after transplantation.
Once you are transferred to the transplant unit, you will meet your post-transplant nurse coordinator. The nurse will give you an educational book, which focuses on the long-term care of your new kidney. Each weekday that you are in the transplant unit, the multidisciplinary kidney transplant care team will visit you, review your progress and reassess what medications you need. Over the weekend, the transplant surgeon and resident physicians will visit you.
On the day of your transplant surgery, you will begin to take a combination of medications designed to prevent your body's immune system from rejecting (attacking) your new kidney. During your admission to the hospital, you will be given some intravenous medications to prevent rejection. At the same time, you also will be started on oral anti-rejection medications. You will take some combination of anti-rejection medications for the rest of your life or as long as you have a functioning transplant.
Like all medications, anti-rejection medications have side effects, which may include low blood count (anemia), gum overgrowth, high blood pressure, diabetes, nausea, diarrhea, tremors and increased cholesterol levels. It may be possible to control or improve these effects. No matter what the side effects, never stop taking your medications. Talk with your transplant team about side effects you may be experiencing.
Most people with kidney disease take many kinds of medication. After your transplant, you may continue to take some medications that you were on before surgery, take lower doses of others, and stop taking some of them altogether. You also probably will be prescribed one or two medications for a few months in order to prevent postsurgical infections.
After you are discharged from Rush, you will need to return to the transplant clinic on a regular basis for continued evaluation of your new kidney, management of your anti-rejection medication and routine postoperative wound care. Generally, these appointments will take place twice a week for the first one to two months after surgery, then become less frequent.
For as long as you have a working kidney, you will need to continue to receive follow-up health evaluations. Blood tests will be the primary screening tool to check your kidney function. At standard intervals and if doctors suspect that your body is rejecting the transplanted kidney, your doctors may perform a biopsy where they take a tissue sample from your transplanted kidney and analyze it. The biopsy can help to determine if anything is wrong with the kidney and what treatments may be needed. Other tests and referrals to specialists will be made as needed based on your situation.
It is a good idea to have someone with you for the first week after surgery in case any unexpected difficulties arise. If you have needed assistance at home before your surgery, you probably still will need help after your surgery. A member of the kidney transplant care team will assess your home care needs prior to your discharge from the hospital and help arrange a visiting nurse or physical or occupational therapist if you need it.
Working After Transplant Surgery
Unless specifically told by a doctor not to work, most people are able to return to work within four to six weeks after the transplant surgery, depending on the amount of physical exertion the job requires.
(Return to the Kidney Transplant Program home page)