One in ten people in the U.S. suffer from some level of chronic kidney disease, but many don't know they have it. Symptoms, like headaches and sleep loss are rare in the early stages of the disease, which progresses slowly over time. Left untreated, chronic kidney disease will cause the kidneys to fail.
"Most people with end-stage kidney failure are candidates for kidney transplantation," says Sanjay Kulkarni, MD, surgical director of kidney transplantation at Yale New Haven Hospital, and professor of transplant surgery and nephrology at Yale School of Medicine. As a treatment, a kidney transplant offers many benefits over dialysis, including freedom to travel, fewer dietary restrictions and, most importantly, improved survival. Our transplant surgeons have vast experience in performing kidney transplants using organs from deceased donors as well as from living donors.
How successful are kidney transplants in general?
Successful kidney transplants have been performed since the 1950s. In the United States, about 90 percent of kidney transplants still function properly after one year.
How does a patient get on the waiting list to receive a kidney transplant?
People who want a transplant may call the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center themselves or their doctor may recommend them. A new, streamlined intake process allows patients to schedule all appointments related to intake—to cover such matters as patient education, medical testing and informed consent—during a one-day visit. The average wait time for a kidney transplant at Yale Medicine is just 42 days—compared with 200, on average, at other U.S. centers.
How does kidney transplant work?
The kidney transplant procedure, performed under general anesthesia, typically takes three to five hours. Many kidney transplants are done using a minimally invasive approach, resulting in less pain, lower bleeding risk, and a faster healing and recovery. After the surgery, a patient typically stays in the hospital for two days and is back to normal life one month after the surgery.
What is the experience of donating a kidney like?
A kidney transplant can be performed successfully with an organ from a living donor or a deceased donor. However, living donor transplants offer better outcomes for the recipient, including earlier transplant and improved survival.
The only way to increase kidney transplants is to increase living donation," Dr. Kulkarni says. “It’s safe and we can help far more people.”
The hospital stay for kidney donors is typically two days, and a full recovery takes three to four weeks. “Our philosophy is that people should be as healthy after donating a kidney as before,” Dr. Kulkarni says. Yale Medicine provides community-based support, and free lifelong monitoring and follow-up care for any issues related to the donation. Donors can attend annual local seminars, where they will receive ongoing health education and support.
In addition, Yale Medicine has pioneered new techniques to make it easier and less painful for people to donate kidneys. “We’ve just completed a clinical trial for a novel procedure that uses less laparoscopic pressure and results in less pain for donors, making the operation and recovery more comfortable,” says Dr. Kulkarni.
What makes Yale Medicine's approach to kidney transplants unique?
As a recognized leader in clinical research and care associated with organ transplants, Yale Medicine offers many advantages, including advanced donor-recipient matching programs, innovative transplantation techniques and exceptional expertise in long-term post-transplant care.
Our transplant surgeons perform minimally invasive kidney removal for both right and left kidneys, unlike many transplant programs that perform the left side laparoscopically while using open surgery for the right side. “Our surgical experience has made the donation process very safe and far more comfortable,” Dr. Kulkarni says.
Children who undergo kidney transplants by Yale Medicine transplant surgeons are admitted to an age-appropriate inpatient unit at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital.
We are a pioneer in creating supportive communities of living donors and providing them with free, lifelong local medical monitoring for any health issues that may arise related to their organ donation.