Kidney Transplant Process

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Overview

Having a kidney transplant is a life-changing event, and the steps involved can be challenging. We want to make sure you and your loved ones know what those steps are, what to expect, and how to prepare. We also want you to know we’ll be right there with you, providing the care and support you need -- before, during, and long after your kidney transplant.

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The Steps

Here's what happens after we receive the referral from your doctor and an appointment is made.

You’ll Be Assigned a Transplant Coordinator
Your pre-transplant coordinator is a nurse with special training and experience in organ transplants. They will be your main point of contact -- answering your questions and helping you arrange tests and appointments -- from your initial evaluation until your transplant surgery.

You’ll Have a Comprehensive Evaluation to See if You’re a Candidate
You and your caregivers will come to our clinic for a one-day evaluation. You’ll see a nephrologist, kidney transplant surgeon, and other members of our transplant team. You will also undergo a series of tests during or following your evaluation. Some of these tests can be performed close to your home. The transplant team will use the information they gather to understand your needs and to determine if a kidney transplant at Duke will meet those needs.

Your Kidney Transplant Options
Once you are approved for a kidney transplant, we start the process of finding the right kidney for you. You may have the option to receive a kidney from a living donor, or you will be placed on the waitlist for a kidney from a deceased donor.

At the Duke Kidney Transplant Center, our team of experts takes an individualized approach to surgery for every patient. Watch this video to learn more about the kidney transplant process at Duke.

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Kidney Transplant Surgery

Scheduling Kidney Transplant Surgery
If you are receiving a kidney from a living donor, they will undergo an evaluation and tests to determine if you are a match. Once that is complete, your surgery can be scheduled in advance for a date that is convenient for both of you.

If You Are on the Kidney Waitlist
If you are receiving a kidney from a deceased donor, you will need to arrive at Duke University Hospital within several hours (ground travel time) of when we notify you that a kidney is available. Before the surgery, we’ll do blood tests to confirm that the kidney is a match for you.

Request a Referral from Your Doctor
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If you are interested in making an appointment for an evaluation, please ask your nephrologist to submit a referral.

Your Transplant Coordinators Will Guide You
You will have an inpatient transplant coordinator when you are in the hospital for your transplant surgery and a post-transplant coordinator for your follow-up care.

Typical Length of Kidney Transplant Surgery
Kidney transplant surgery typically takes four to six hours. After the surgery, you’ll remain in the hospital for four to six days to recover. We’ll carefully monitor your fluid status and urine output to make sure your new kidney is functioning adequately. Your surgeon, nephrologist, transplant coordinator, and others will visit you daily to check on your progress.

Our Locations

Kidney transplant surgery is performed at Duke University Hospital. Pre- and post-transplant appointments take place at our nephrology clinics in Durham.

Kidney Transplant Recovery

In the First Weeks
During the initial weeks after your kidney transplant, you’ll need to follow a strict medical regimen to recover and reduce the chances your body will reject the transplanted kidney. In addition to taking anti-rejection medications, you’ll be asked to regularly measure and record your fluid intake and output, blood pressure, temperature, and (if you have diabetes) blood sugar.

You'll Receive Nutrition Instructions
While it’s likely that you’ll no longer need to follow a “renal diet,” you will be given comprehensive nutrition instructions to follow for the first six weeks after your transplant. For the first month, you’ll also come in for weekly clinic visits. We’ll check your incisions, medication levels, and kidney function.

Follow-up Clinic Visits
After the first four to six weeks, your visits will be spaced further apart -- but we’ll continue to monitor you to manage your risks and the side effects from your anti-rejection medications. Your post-transplant coordinator and your care team will be there to promote your long-term health -- and that of your transplanted kidney -- for the rest of your life.

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Patient Resources

You can read more about the kidney transplant process at Duke in our Kidney Transplant Care Guides.
This page was medically reviewed on 02/02/2022 by