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A kidney transplant is considered the best treatment for people with advanced Chronic Kidney Disease (“CKD”). It most closely mirrors the function of one’s own kidneys and as a result people with transplants experience a better quality of life and longer survival (life expectancy) than people who are treated with dialysis.
Dr. TJ talks about why a kidney transplant needs to be considered as the first treatment option for people with advanced kidney disease. Watch the video for further education.
What is kidney transplant?
If you can safely get a kidney transplant, it’s considered the best treatment option for kidney failure. A transplant can increase the chances for a longer and healthier life for people facing kidney failure. It is a surgical procedure during which a healthy kidney from a donor is placed into the recipient.
Getting a transplant is very much in your best interest, and so you should be prepared to work hard to overcome the obstacles. The earlier you start thinking about a transplant, the better! If you need to lose weight, start early, well before complete kidney failure! If you need to stop smoking, do anything you need to do to safely quit. Remember, it may take time to lose weight and quit smoking!
Let your healthcare team know that getting a kidney transplant is your ultimate goal. Talk to your family about your desire for a transplant. When your kidney function (called “eGFR”) reaches 20 units, really start pushing for a transplant candidate evaluation.
What do you need to know about kidney transplant?
A transplant gives you the best assurance of a long and reasonably trouble-free life after kidney failure.
As medical knowledge has increased and post-transplant care has improved over time, transplants have been functioning longer and longer. Currently, about 50% of kidney transplants are still working well enough to keep the patient off dialysis at 10 years. 25% are doing so at 20 years.
If a transplant fails, you can go back on dialysis and if you are well enough, you can get a new transplant, although it may be harder to find a match with each succeeding transplant.
Who can qualify for kidney transplant?
A good transplant candidate needs to be healthy enough to have moderate surgery and tolerate a strict, lifelong medication regimen after surgery to make sure the immune system doesn’t reject the new kidney.
As a kidney disease patient, you should insist on being evaluated to see if you are a good transplant candidate before needing to start dialysis. In fact, Medicare says you can be evaluated and put on the waiting list as soon as when your kidney function reaches twenty units of kidney function, which for most people is well before dialysis is needed, giving you a “running start” at a transplant.
How much does a kidney transplant cost?
Costs vary - a kidney transplant can run from $120,000 (uncomplicated) to $400,000 (complex). Most commercial insurance as well as Medicare will pay for a substantial amount of the cost of the transplant. In addition, the good news is that each kidney transplant center team has clinical social workers with the knowledge, experience and skills to tell how much of the cost would be your responsibility.
A major step forward for transplant patients happened in late 2020 when Congress passed the “Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act”. This law made Medicare responsible for paying for transplant immune-suppressing medications for as long as the transplant is working. So, the financial pressure on transplant patients is now considerably reduced.
About Lifeblood Foundation
Lifeblood Foundation’s mission is to accelerate advancements in the care of chronic diseases by bringing education and tools to patients, their families and their support networks. A primary focus is to align with forces dedicated to creating positive change. Together we aim to improve patient care and give those afflicted with chronic diseases the chance to live a much fuller life.