What are the benefits and risks of kidney transplant?

Benefits of a kidney transplant for the recipient include being free from dialysis, and being able to return to normal activities of life. The recipient of a kidney can return to a healthy diet with fewer restrictions and may be free from the previous complications of end stage kidney disease.

The Following are the risks of kidney transplant:

  • Delayed graft function

    A condition in which the transplanted kidney does not function right away. This may entail a return to dialysis while the medications are managed and the kidney is given time to start working.

  • Rejection

    Occurs when the body's immune system attacks the transplanted kidney because it recognizes it as a foreign body. Rejection can be responsive to immunosuppression management, but it must be caught early.

  • Graft non function

    For various reasons, the transplanted kidney may not work at all despite medication management. This means that the recipient has to return to dialysis (if already started) and will be placed back on the transplant wait list to await another kidney if they wish.

  • Infection

    The risk of infection after transplant is related to the high doses of immunosuppression which blunt the immune response. A normal bacteria or virus that can be fought off in a healthy immune system may take longer to fight, and may cause more symptoms in a patient who is immunocompromised. 

    There is also a risk of transmission of infection from a donor. Although donors go through extensive testing to ensure that they are free from infection, there is a very small risk that an infection may go undetected and be passed on to the recipient.

  • Cancer

    The risk of developing cancer after transplant may be related to: 

    Genetics, the recipient has pre-disposing factors genetically (or family history) that increase his/her chances of getting cancer, or they have had cancer before

    A suppressed immune system that is not efficient in detecting and destroying cancerous cells when they form

    Cancer cells that exist in the donor organ and are transferred after transplantation. This risk is rare because of the rigorous screening that all donors go through, but there is still a chance that it may happen. This is a risk that accompanies organs that come from living and deceased donors.