Kidneys are remarkably resilient, with people remaining perfectly healthy even if only one of their two kidneys is functioning correctly. However, advanced kidney disease affects millions of people across the country.
The most common treatment for kidney failure is dialysis, which is a costly and time-consuming treatment that limits the patient’s quality of life. Hence, many patients hope for a kidney transplant, which promises a better quality of life.
Organ transplants require a lifelong commitment, so it’s essential for anyone considering this operation to know what to expect during the recovery stage.
Hospital Recovery After a Kidney Transplant
Despite continuous advances in medicine, kidney transplants remain a highly invasive procedure. Doctors must replace the entire diseased kidney with the donor organ.
They also have to reroute blood vessels and reconnect the ureter, which is a tube that conveys urine from the kidney to the bladder. Hence, you will need to stay in the hospital for a while to allow your wounds to heal, and for your doctors to ensure that your new kidney works appropriately.
In most cases, the new organ starts working immediately as it should. However, if the new kidney does not work properly, you may need supplementary dialysis.
Your doctors will also check to see whether you develop any complications. Any surgery presents the risk of infection, which can be dangerous unless doctors start treatment immediately. Organ rejection can also occur at this stage, requiring immediate treatment to prevent any further damage to the transplanted organ.
Physical Activity After Surgery
After several weeks, it should typically be safe for you to resume normal activities. You would probably be able to go back to work. However, your surgeon may limit your physical activities to light exercises such as walking.
In particular, you need to avoid vigorous workouts and heavy lifting, because these require you to strain and to contract your abdominal muscles. These activities increase the pressure inside your abdomen, which can weaken the healing incision and cause it to rupture.
That said, you should still incorporate gentle movement into your daily routine. You need to slowly strengthen your body as it recovers from surgery and days of bed rest. Exercise improves blood circulation, which should also accelerate the healing process.
Immunosuppression to Prevent Organ Rejection
Since the donated kidney came from another person, your immune system is likely to recognize the organ as foreign. To prevent organ rejection, your doctor will prescribe a series of drugs called immunosuppressants. These medications will lessen the activity of your immune system, thereby giving your new kidney a better chance at survival.
Immunosuppression treatment begins shortly before or right after your operation, but you will need to keep taking one or more of these medications for the rest of your life. It’s essential to take these drugs precisely as your doctors prescribed them, as missing even a single dose might trigger a rejection episode.
Since immunosuppression weakens your immune system, you will become more prone to infections. Hence, you might also need additional medications such as antibacterial or antifungal treatments to keep other diseases at bay. Doctors will ask you to avoid potential sources of infection, and it may not be a good idea to take vaccines that contain live microorganisms.
Note that these drugs may also have significant side effects and contraindications with other medications or even foods. For example, grapefruit juice can interfere with your ability to utilize some immunosuppressants. If you encounter any unusual symptoms, report them to your doctor immediately so that they can adjust your treatment plan.
Kidney Transplant in Greater Boston
A kidney transplant may be a one-time operation, but it will require a lifelong commitment from you. However, choosing to work with a competent medical team should help make the recovery process and lifestyle adjustment more manageable.
If you are in or near the Boston area, visit Commonwealth Nephrology Associates. Our expert surgeons provide high-quality care before, during, and after a kidney transplant. Call us now at (617) 739-2100 or request an appointment online via our easy-to-use form. We look forward to helping you get back to enjoying life again!