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Kidney Transplant: Common FAQs Answered

Kidney transplants aren’t an instant fix after organ failure. Here’s everything you should know about this surgery.

4 min read
 Kidney Transplant: Common FAQs Answered
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In India alone, more than 2.5 lakh patients need a new kidney every year, however, only 10,000 transplants were carried out in 2016.

Besides the acute shortage of organs, one in five patients who needs a transplant is an incompatible match.

Here are some FAQs related to kidney transplant.


1. The Organ Donation Gap Is Ghastly In India

In 2015, one thousand kidney transplants took place in NCR and the waiting list at AIIMS is usually 8 months. (Photo: iStock)

Last year around 5 lakh Indians died while waiting for an organ transplant. We have 0.2 donors per million population, besides the acute shortage of organs, one in five patients who needs a transplant is an incompatible match.


2. Kidney Transplant Is Not Urgent Like Liver or Heart Transplant

Two to four lakh Indians develop end stage kidney disease, or kidney failure every year. The number is huge but unlike heart, lung or liver; kidney transplant is not the last resort for these patients.

In fact to many patients, it is offered as the first line of treatment when kidneys start failing. The alternative is dialysis. It involves getting a tube placed in the abdomen and being tethered to a blood-cleansing machine, three times a week, four debilitating hours at a time.

Also Read: Remarkable Discovery Could Change Kidney Transplants Forever


3. Transplantation versus Dialysis

This is a dialysis machine, it imitates the kidneys and patients on dialysis begin to feel better quickly but being chained to a machine to stay alive means that simple things like working full time, travelling become limited. (Photo: iStock)

Dialysis performs the functions that healthy kidneys would ordinarily do  – they clean the body’s blood supply but getting tied to a machine for three to four hours, thrice a week isn’t anyone’s idea of a quality life.

The cost is roughly Rs 20,000 a month and people drag on with dialysis only till their name crawls up the transplant list.

Transplants, on the other hand are not risk-free but the benefits outweigh the risks.

On an average, kidney transplants add four years of life, according to medical journal JAMA. It is a major surgery, requires round-the-clock aftercare, nearly two-years of regular tests and follow-up procedures and a heavy dose of immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of your life, so that the organ is not rejected by the body.

4. Whose Kidneys Will You Get?

Only 1% of Indians donate their organs after death but that figure is as high as 70-80% in the West - Mohan Foundation. (Photo: iStock)

5. Transplants Don’t Last Forever

Also, after a transplant, people can have massive blood pressure fluctuations, so a beta blocker is added to the long list of medications as well. (Photo: iStock)

A transplanted organ doesn’t last forever - 10% people die after a kidney transplant after the first year, 17% by the end of the third year. Even if you are going strong, organs tend to ‘wear out’ and will have to be replaced by new ones.

Also Read: Kidney Patient? Read How the New Transplant Policy Will Affect You


6. A Transplanted Organ Can Carry a Hidden Disease

Most transplants are safe and necessary yet infections occur because organ donations are done in a crisis, sometimes infections are false negative at first, since time is of essence, it’s not always tested again, screening protocols also vary tremendously across hospitals. (Photo: iStock)
Organs are carefully screened for infections and diseases, yet doctors say, every year 1 to 2% people contract a hidden disease along with the organ. This could be a gross under estimation as well because no one is monitoring post-transplant care on a national level.

Infectious diseases can be bacterial infections, hepatitis B and C, parasitic illness and in very unfortunate and rare cases, cancer and HIV as well.

Also Read: Organ Donation Gap: Less than 1% Indians Donate Organs


7. The Cost Of Transplant Is Huge

At a private hospital, for an ordinary patient the cost of a kidney transplant can be up to rupees eight lakhs, after-care not included.

Post-surgery, a patient can actively get back to office within a month or two.

But remember that half a million Indians die on the wait-list of an organ transplant - there’s a dire donor crisis. If you are a healthy individual, registering to donate an organ takes lesser time than to make Maggi noodles, and it’s the nicest, kindest thing you’ll ever do.

Also Read: Kidneys For Sale: The Great Indian Scam

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