Adjusting To Life After A Kidney Transplant (What You Must Know)

The success of a kidney transplant procedure hinges on a number of factors.

If you or someone you love struggles with chronic kidney disease, or if you have already received a transplanted kidney, keep reading for some important insights and tips about adjusting to life after a kidney transplant.

WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES FOR A KIDNEY RECIPIENT’S RECOVERY?

Here are the four basic guidelines for a successful recovery after a kidney transplant procedure:

1. Get regular check-ups from your transplant surgeon and your other healthcare providers.
2. Take prescribed anti-rejection medicines at the right times and in the proper dosages.
3. Don’t miss any clinic visits or lab tests. They ensure your kidney is functioning properly.
4. Pursue a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a proper diet.

IS REJECTION NORMAL AFTER TRANSPLANT SURGERY?

The rejection of a new organ is the most common medical complication that transplant patients experience. It is the body’s typical response to any transplant procedure.

Rejection can happen in two ways after a kidney transplant procedure:

1. Acute rejection can happen any time up to a year after the transplant surgery. In most cases, acute rejection is treatable.

2. Chronic rejection happens slowly over time. Chronic rejection is not yet fully understood, and treatments for chronic rejection are not usually successful.

WHAT DRUGS ARE PRESCRIBED FOR KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENTS?

Anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants) suppress the activity and strength of the immune system. That helps most patients avoid the body’s rejection of a new kidney.

Kidney rejection is difficult to detect at its onset, but once a rejection begins, it is not typically reversible.

Do not stop taking your anti-rejection medication after a kidney transplant operation. Even if you feel great and everything is working splendidly, failing to take the immunosuppressants – even for a short time – could trigger the onset of rejection.

After a kidney transplant procedure, try to make your medications a habit and a part of your routine daily activities. Do whatever it takes to help you remember when to take the medicine.

WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DRUGS YOU ARE PRESCRIBED?

You should also know the names and proper dosages of each medicine prescribed to you after a kidney transplant, and you should learn the precise purpose of each.

Knowing about your drugs will give you confidence and expertise as you heal and adjust to life after transplant surgery.

Contact your doctor immediately if any problem emerges with your recovery or medications and be completely honest about your condition and recovery during your follow-up appointments.

While you are taking immunosuppressants after a kidney transplant, try to avoid other medicines.

If you are given another prescription by another doctor – for another condition, for example – check with your transplant surgeon first. Some drugs could keep your immunosuppressants from working properly.

DO IMMUNOSUPPRESSANTS HAVE SIDE-EFFECTS?

Immunosuppressant medications may cause a number of side-effects, but for most patients, those side-effects will be mild and manageable. If side-effects emerge, ask your doctor about changing the dosage or the type of medicine.

The most commonly-reported side-effects of immunosuppressants are higher blood pressure, weight gain, an increased risk of infection, and a heightened risk for several types of cancer.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ANTI-REJECTION MEDICATIONS?

Three groups or types of immunosuppressant medications are available to transplant recipients:

1. Induction agents are the strong anti-rejection drugs that are used immediately before and/or immediately after the operation.

2. Maintenance agents are the anti-rejection drugs that kidney transplant recipients have to take daily – for as long as you have that kidney.

3. Rejection agents are the special anti-rejection drugs which are used if any signs of rejection are detected.

AFTER A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT, WHAT IS THE RISK OF INFECTION?

Immunosuppressant medications help kidney transplant patients fight rejection, but those same drugs also lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections.

Most infections are preventable, and many post-operative infections are in fact a direct result of medical negligence.

Detecting and treating infections immediately is the way to stay healthy after a kidney transplant operation. Talk to your doctor about vaccines that may help you avoid pneumonia or influenza.

There’s no absolute way to avoid all infections, but wash your hands frequently, maintain good hygiene habits, and avoid any close contact with pets, children, or with any adult who has or who’s recently had a contagious disease.

WHAT IS “NODAT” AND WHY MUST TRANSPLANT PATIENTS KNOW ABOUT IT?

If you do not have diabetes, “new-onset diabetes after transplant” or NODAT may develop after a kidney transplant procedure.

NODAT sometimes emerges as a side-effect of taking immunosuppressant medications.

The chance of NODAT after a kidney transplant procedure is higher for patients who are obese and for patients with a family history of diabetes.

WHAT OTHER RISKS DO KIDNEY RECIPIENTS FACE?

Kidney transplant recipients are also at greater risk for heart disease. high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Weight gain is also common after a kidney transplant.

Your chances of cancer are also higher after a kidney transplant procedure. Immunosuppressants decrease your immune function and may simultaneously reduce the body’s ability to defend against some types of cancer.

WHAT ABOUT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE DURING TRANSPLANT SURGERY?

If any kind of medical malpractice takes place during your kidney transplant operation, speak at once to an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

You might be surprised to learn that transplant recipients are not the only patients who can be victimized by medical malpractice in connection with kidney transplant surgeries.

Donors have also been the victims of medical malpractice. For example:

1. A thirty-one-year-old woman in Texas, who donated a kidney to her grandmother, sued because doctors did not inform her that the grandmother was dying of terminal cancer – making the transplant an unnecessary surgery.

2. A woman in Florida has sued for wrongful death after her husband, a healthy forty-year-old, died from internal bleeding after donating a kidney to his father.

There’s a great deal to consider when you are preparing for and recovering from a kidney transplant procedure, but medical malpractice should not have to be one of those concerns.

HOW CAN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYER HELP?

If you are a victim of medical malpractice in connection with a kidney transplant procedure, discuss your legal rights and options at once with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

With a strong medical malpractice claim, you may be compensated for your additional medical care, pain, suffering, and more. A good medical malpractice lawyer will fight aggressively for justice on your behalf and hold the negligent party or parties accountable.

But it is imperative for you to take the first step, make the call, and get the legal help you need.

By: Jed Kurzban

Medical malpractice attorney Jed Kurzban graduated from the University of Alabama in 1992 and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 1995. He is a member of the Dade County Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, and the American Bar Association. Mr. Kurzban is happily married and the father of two.