Risks of Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplants carry certain health risks related to the procedure itself such as the use of immunosuppressant medications or discrepencies in the transplanted kidney.

Himanshu Sharma
Written by: Himanshu SharmaUpdated at: Jun 26, 2013 18:17 IST
Risks of Kidney Transplant

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A kidney transplant or renal transplantation is a surgical procedure of a healthy kidney transplant in a patient with end-stage renal disease.

Kidney anatomyKidney transplants, like most other surgical procedures, carry certain health risks related to the procedure itself such as the use of immunosuppressant medications or discrepencies in the transplanted kidney. With the introduction of newer and effective immunosuppressant medications over the last few years, risks related to the procedures have fallen sharply but not completely.


[Read: How to Keep your Kidneys Clear]


Complications may occur a few months after transplant or take several years to appear. The risks of kidney transplant are classified into two types i.e. short-term risks and long-term risks.

Short-term complications

  • Infections: A patient may have infections, usually in the form of urinary tract infection (UTI), cold influenza (flu). More severe infections after kidney transplant include pneumonia (a lung infection) and cytomegalovirus (a viral infection).
  • Blood clots: Arteries that are connected to the donated kidney may develop blood clots. In some cases, medications help dissolve the blood clots. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to remove the donated kidney.
  • Narrowing of an artery (arterial stenosis): The arteries connected to the donated kidney may become narrow causing a sudden rise in blood pressure. To widen the artery, a surgery may be needed.
  • Ureteral obstruction and urinary leakage: The ureter may become blocked from clots of tissue or fluid forming during or after the transplant. As a result, the patient may get fever, experience pain in the side of your abdomen (stomach) or have blood in the urine. Sometimes, surgery may be required to unblock the ureter.
  • Acute rejection: The donated kidney is attacked by immune system which mistakes it for a foreign object.

Long-term complications

  • Side-effects of immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressants are prescribed to patients so as to prevent their immune system from attacking the new kidney. Sometimes, these can cause a wide range of side-effects including loss of appetite, feeling sick, stomach pain,    diarrhoea, swollen gums, convulsions, headache, acne and weight gain. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Diabetes: Some types of immunosuppressants and eating more to put on weight after surgical procedure can make the patient more likely to develop diabetes.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is another long-term complication of a kidney transplant. Those who require a kidney transplant and already have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure may make their condition worse by taking immunosuppressants.
  • Cancers: Use of immunosuppressants for long-term can increase your risk of developing most types of skin cancers, kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of cancer that can affect both skin and internal organs), kidney cancer and lymphoma.

To reduce and prevent short and long-term complications of kidney transplant, you need to visit the doctor for regular health check-ups and watch out for early signs of any disease.


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