Kidney transplant process

At Children’s we know that you, your child, and the rest of your family will require support, expertise and guidance from start to finish. Our team-based approach focuses on partnering with your family to help you every step of the way.

Our kidney transplant team

One of the advantages of partnering with Children’s for your child’s kidney transplant is the comprehensive team of specialists that we have assembled to address all aspects of your child’s needs. Our exceptional, dedicated team includes a pediatric kidney specialist, transplant surgeon, social worker, nutritionist, pharmacist, child life specialist and a team of skilled clinical nurses. Throughout the process, you will have a transplant coordinator at your side.

Evaluation for kidney transplant

The first step of our pediatric kidney transplant process is to determine if the procedure is a good fit for your child. The Children’s team will carefully review your child’s health history and order diagnostic tests. These tests may include blood work, tissue typing, ECHO and/or EKG. We also arrange for your child and your family to meet with a child psychologist and a social worker to make sure everyone is prepared for what lies ahead.

Living donors

Kidneys for your child can come from two sources: a living donor or an anonymous deceased organ donor. You may have a relative who would be a good candidate to make a living donation to your child. If so, the Children’s team – and our adult care partners at Froedtert Hospital – will evaluate to make sure they are a good fit.

Placement on the UNOS list

If there is no relative who is a good fit as a living donor, your child will be placed on a waiting list with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for a donor kidney. Your child is prioritized based on medical urgency and the wait for a new kidney widely varies.

Pre-transplant education

There is a lot of information to digest before your child’s transplant – and you will probably have a lot of questions. At Children’s, providing you with the information you need before the transplant is important. Through your transplant coordinator, we establish an open, ongoing dialogue. You will receive a copy of our transplant manual and also have a chance to meet with all key members of your child’s transplant team.

Kidney availability

If your child is on the UNOS list for a new kidney, it is hard to predict how long the wait will be. Once a suitable kidney is available, things move quickly. Your transplant coordinator will contact you immediately and guide you through the next steps. First, you will bring your child to the hospital as soon as possible. Next, our team performs a physical exam, additional blood work and diagnostic tests to be sure the donor organ is a good fit for your child.

Kidney transplant

It usually takes about three or four hours to attach your child’s new kidney. Unlike other organ transplants, kidney transplants usually do not require removal of your child’s damaged kidneys. Instead, we place the new kidney in a different area. Throughout the surgery, our team keeps you updated on your child’s progress.

Aftercare

After the transplant, your child will be moved to the Intensive Care Unit for immediate recovery. There, the most important things we watch for are organ rejection and kidney function. As your child improves, he or she will be moved to a regular unit and we will continue watching for complications. Your child will be started on the required medications to prevent rejection and infection. Your team will give you information regarding all of the medications that will be needed following the transplant. Your child will be cared for by the nephrology and transplant surgery teams. This entire multidisciplinary team will participate in preparing you and your child for discharge.

About follow-up care

Long-term health following kidney transplant requires regular return visits to monitor your child’s progress. In addition, your child will need to be on anti-rejection medication and other drugs, all of which our team will help guide. You may have to continue to watch for signs of rejection. We will teach you what to look for and what to do if that occurs. You will be given information about who to call if there are problems. We also provide the clinic follow up plan.