What To Do When A Kidney Transplant Fails - (Can I Sue?)

A diagnosis of chronic kidney disease means that a person’s kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood and wastes the way they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body.

Kidney disease can cause other health problems, such as heart disease. If you have kidney disease, it increases your chances of a stroke or a heart attack. If it’s not treated, the eventual result is complete kidney failure.

Our kidneys protect us by functioning as a “filtering” system for our bodies. Kidney disease happens when a kidney begins to stop filtering wastes. While astounding progress has been made, kidney disease still impacts roughly 26 million adults in the United States.

The primary risk factors for kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney disease, but everyone over the age of 60 should be considered at risk for kidney disease.

In most cases, with an early and accurate diagnosis, kidney disease can be treated and managed successfully.

When kidney disease is diagnosed early, the standard treatment is a drug from the family of drugs called ACE inhibitors or another family called ARB drugs.

Careful management of high blood pressure and diabetes may also help to prevent kidney disease or keep it from progressing.


Sometimes, however, and especially if it’s untreated or wrongly diagnosed, kidney disease progresses to complete kidney failure, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant procedure.

More than 468,000 patients receive kidney dialysis in the U.S., and approximately 193,000 people are living in U.S. with a transplanted kidney. 17,600 kidneys were transplanted in the United States in 2013.

While the success rate of kidney transplants is quite high, there’s little discussion about what happens when kidney transplants fail.

Approximately seven percent of the kidney transplants in the U.S. fail within a year; seventeen percent fail within three years.

And it’s almost impossible to find anything in writing that helps patients and their families cope with a kidney transplant failure.

Many patients end up seeking a second transplant, and twenty percent of kidney transplant operations in the U.S. each year are in fact “re-transplants.” Why do kidney transplants fail?

A kidney transplant may fail for one of these reasons:

1. Clotting: When the blood vessels leading to a transplanted kidney clot, the kidney receives no blood. Clotting sometimes happens immediately after the transplant surgery.

2. Infection: If it’s not found and treated at once, an infection can permanently damage a kidney.

3. Fluid collection: If fluid collects around a kidney, without prompt treatment, the pressure can cause serious damage.

4. Problems with donated kidneys: Sometimes unexpected problems emerge with a donor’s kidney, and the kidney never does function properly.

5. Medication’s side effects: A number of drugs can seriously harm the kidneys.

6. Disease recurrence: While it is extremely rare, in some cases the original disease that damaged a kidney re-emerges and damages the transplanted kidney.

7. Acute Rejection: Acute rejection is also extremely rare, when the body rejects a transplanted kidney immediately after surgery.

8. Chronic Rejection: Chronic rejection is simply a result of the long-term damage done by the body’s immune system. Chronic rejection is the leading reason for kidney transplant failures.

9. Patient non-compliance: Unfortunately, a kidney transplant patient may sometimes be responsible for a transplant failure because he or she stops taking or forgets to take the anti-rejection drugs required after transplant surgery. Without those drugs, the body rejects and damages the transplanted kidney. Patient non-compliance may also include missing medical appointments, lab tests, and forgetting or avoiding other treatments.

Most kidney transplant patients are more than willing to comply with all of a doctor’s orders and recommendations after transplant surgery.

They want to be healthy, and they want to take care of themselves after receiving a kidney.

Frankly, patient non-compliance is quite rare, and most kidney transplant failures occur for medical reasons that have nothing to do with a patient’s behavior.

Obviously, those patients whose transplants fail are disappointed when they learn that they must return to dialysis, but they can usually get right back on the waiting list.


Of course, kidney transplant recipients must follow prescribed treatments, take prescribed medications, schedule regular checkups, and seek medical attention when they don’t feel well. Still, a transplant patient who does everything right may experience a transplant failure.

Most kidney disease and kidney transplant patients receive the highest-quality medical care from diligent, dedicated doctors and healthcare professionals. Just as a transplant failure is rarely the patent’s fault, it’s rarely the doctor’s fault either.

Even so, kidney disease patients can become the victims of medical malpractice for a number of reasons, and if you struggle with kidney disease, medical malpractice can make your condition worse.

An inaccurate early diagnosis or the wrong prescription or treatment can constitute medical malpractice that leads to kidney failure, dialysis, or the necessity for a transplant.

The failure to receive a correct, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can sometimes lead straight to acute renal failure.


All healthcare professionals must provide their patients with a “reasonable” standard of care. They are not obligated to order every possible medical test, but they are expected to provide the competent and professional medical care that other doctors would provide in similar circumstances.

As a kidney disease patient, you might be victimized by medical malpractice at almost any point in your treatment – from an initial misdiagnosis to a mistake in the operating room during a kidney transplant procedure.

If you have been harmed by medical malpractice as a kidney disease patient – or if you’re not sure that what happened to you constitutes medical malpractice – discuss the details with a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can explain your legal rights and options.

When healthcare professionals do not provide a reasonable standard of care, they are negligent, and an injured victim of medical negligence may file a medical malpractice claim.

Medical malpractice victims – who can prove that they are medical malpractice victims – are entitled by law to full reimbursement for all necessary additional medical care, all related expenses, and in some cases for their pain and suffering as well after an incident of medical malpractice.

Not every medical mistake or transplant failure is the result of malpractice, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney can examine your own case to determine if medical malpractice has occurred.

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.