Can I have a kidney transplant?

If you have kidney disease or kidney failure and want to know if you can receive a kidney transplant, our information booklet, Can I have a kidney transplant? provides some information. The booklet contains detailed information on the types of kidney transplants, how the waiting list works and what having a transplant actually involves.

How do I know if I can have a kidney transplant?

Only half of patients with kidney failure are suitable to have a kidney transplant. Each patient will be assessed individually to see if transplantation is the best option for them.

Who will do my assessment?

Your kidney doctor in the clinic or dialysis unit will be able to assess whether you are suitable to have a transplant. The doctor may want you to see a kidney transplant doctor or surgeon at the Royal Free before you can have a transplant. If you are not sure whether you are suitable for a transplant, you can ring the pre-transplant assessment nurse on 020 7794 0500 x 34084.

Why might I not be able to have a transplant?

Kidney transplantation requires a major operation and patients have to be fit enough to have an anaesthetic (which puts you to sleep for the operation). Patients who have significant heart, circulation or breathing problems may not be fit enough to have a transplant. Patients who have had cancer or serious infections may not be able to have a transplant due to the risk from weakening their immune system after the transplant. Advancing age does not rule patients out from having a transplant but frail patients may not be able to tolerate the operation or medication needed after the transplant. You cannot have a transplant when you are pregnant.

What does the assessment involve?

The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your health and examine you. You will have blood tests to check for infections, blood count, genetic type and a number of other important tests. You will be asked to have a tracing of your heart (ECG) and a chest X-ray. The doctor may also ask you to book further tests of your heart, blood vessels or other scans (such as a CT scan, ultrasound or MRI).

Can I ask questions at my assessment?

Yes. The doctor will tell you some information about transplantation and what is involved but you should also ask any questions you may have about transplantation. It may be an idea to write down any questions you want to ask and bring them with you. You may find it useful to bring along a relative or friend for support and to discuss any issues raised at your consultation. You should also attend one of our transplant information evenings to make sure that you and your relatives are fully prepared for a transplant. If you have any further questions, you can ring the pre-transplant assessment nurse on 020 7794 0500 x 34084.

How do I get on the transplant waiting list?

If the doctors feel you are suitable to have a kidney transplant, they will ask you to sign a consent form and will place your name on the waiting list. If someone is going to give you a kidney, you may want to wait for their kidney without going on to the waiting list.

What if someone wants to give me a kidney?

The best way to receive a kidney transplant is if someone is prepared to give you one of their kidneys. If someone wants to give you a kidney, you should ring the live donor nurses on 020 7317 7604 to arrange matching with this person and to see if they would be a suitable donor for you.

Do I have to be on dialysis to get a transplant?

No. It is usually better if we can arrange a transplant before you need dialysis. This is called a pre-emptive transplant. If your kidney function is slowly getting worse, please ask your kidney doctor or specialist nurse about pre-emptive transplantation.

Types of kidney transplant

There are two different types of kidney transplant:

Deceased donor transplant. This is a transplant using a kidney from someone who has died and donated his or her organs. 
Living donor transplant. This is a transplant using a kidney donated by a living person. This is usually a relative, partner or friend, but occasionally is someone unknown to the recipient. 

All patients having a living donor transplant and some who are on the waiting list for a deceased donor transplant will be seen in the out-patient clinic prior to the transplant by a nephrologist (kidney doctor) and surgeon.

More information on becoming a kidney donor can be found on our kidney donation page.