A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a healthy kidney from a donor is implanted into a patient with end-stage kidney disease. One of the most common transplant surgeries, the procedure normally allows a greater freedom of lifestyle than kidney dialysis, the only other treatment for kidney failure. The most common cause of end-stage kidney disease in the United States in diabetes, but it also may be caused by other factors. In many cases a kidney transplant may be ruled out if the patient has certain types of infections, trouble taking medicine, heart/lung/liver disease, hepatitis or other infections, or a history of smoking, drug use, or alcohol abuse.
The healthy kidney must be donated by a living person (usually a close relative) with certain genetic similarities to the recipient or by someone who recently died (or their family). Most living donations are performed laparoscopically, which doesn't require the body to be fully opened and thus typically affords donors a shorter hospital stay, accelerated recovery, and a faster return to work. If patients needing kidney transplantation do not have a living donor available with matching tissue characteristics, they may be placed on a waiting list. The wait could be years, as the number of donated kidneys is small compared with the number of people on the list.
UAB’s kidney transplantation program began in 1968, and we have been at the forefront of the field ever since. We average nearly 300 transplants per year and have worked to achieve outstanding clinical outcomes, thanks in part to our active clinical and research efforts. We operate an outreach clinic in Mobile, Ala., allowing us to provide more convenient post-transplant care to our patients in the southern areas of the state. Our Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program serves to increase patients’ chances of being matched with a compatible kidney.
Kidney transplant patients at UAB can expect comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate pre- and post-transplant care from an experienced, multidisciplinary team of specialists that includes surgeons, nephrologists, nurses, transplant coordinators, pharmacists, mental health professionals, and transplant social workers. Our highly skilled, dedicated surgeons and nephrologists are recognized leaders in their field, and UAB is a major training center for transplant surgeons and nephrologists now serving at some of the nation’s best medical centers. Transplant recipients initially are cared for in our dedicated transplant step-down unit within our main kidney transplant ward, which is continuously staffed by a dedicated transplant nursing team, and our 22-bed surgical intensive care unit is available when needed.
In 1988, UAB performed the region’s first simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) transplant, a surgical advance that now is the accepted treatment for many patients with end-stage kidney disease caused by insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes and often enables recipients to live a fuller life, free of chronic insulin use. Since this pioneering achievement, almost 300 patients have received this innovative surgery at UAB.
UAB Kidney Chain
High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given an ever-growing number of people a new lease on life. The chain is now the nation's longest ever. Read more about the UAB Kidney Chain.
UAB Living Donor Navigator Program
Another thing that sets UAB Medicine apart is our Living Donor Navigator Program, through which each patient identifies another person to be his or her “Living Donor Champion”. We provide champions and their patients with educational materials and resources to help locate potential living donors. Read more about the Living Donor Navigator Program.
Images and Videos
TEDxBirmingham inspires man to donate kidney, become part of UAB Kidney Chain
Jan Jones: Kidney & Pancreas Transplant Recipient
Carol Graydon: Kidney Transplant Donor
Divyank Saini/Kidney Transplant Donor
Debbie Shearer's donation of a single kidney at UAB meant life for many others awaiting a transplant.
UAB Living Organ Donor Program
Debbie Shearer's donation of a single kidney in honor of her late son, George, meant life for many others awaiting a transplant. Living donors are carefully screened and only the healthiest donors are allowed to donate an organ. Watch this inspiring story to learn more about UAB's living donor program.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for kidney transplants. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials