It is a commonly held assumption and it doesn’t matter if you are referring to the lungs, liver, heart or kidneys. What we are referring to is the notion that a transplantation is a ‘last resort’ when it comes to treating a failing organ. However, when talking about kidney disease specifically, transplantation is, in fact, one of the first lines of treatment, that is, assuming you are a qualified candidate.
“A kidney transplant is not a last resort; it’s a first resort,” says Dr. Emilio Poggio, MD, a nephrologist, and expert in kidney transplantation. “For people who meet the requirements for kidney transplantation, it’s the best option for treatment.”
So why do we think otherwise? Simple, the availability of kidneys for transplant are scarce, making the alternative like hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis much more common. But what’s the difference?
Dialysis is a way of artificially doing what a healthy kidney would do, which is pump blood out of the body, clean it, and return it. Typically, these types of treatment last for three or four hours, three times a week.
According to nephrologist and Chair of Nephrology at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Robert Heyka, MD, “Transplantation is the way to go, and the sooner the better. But the reality is most people will still need to be on dialysis.”
The statistics aren’t great when it comes to kidney disease, with more than 10 percent of American adults, or 20 million people living with it. Of those, there are more than 100,000 waiting for a transplant.
While the idea of having an organ removed and another one put in its place can certainly be a lot to think about, the reality is that the benefits of transplantation outweigh the side effects. In fact, when compared to dialysis, the long-term mortality rate of transplant recipients compared to those on dialysis was 48 to 82 percent lower. Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate for a new kidney. Aside from having to be digested with irreversible kidney failure, stage 5 chronic kidney disease, or end-stage renal disease, the recipient must also be free of other conditions that may complicate the transplant further such as diabetes or heart disease.
If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, please don’t be scared to speak to your doctor about a kidney transplant. While not for everyone, if you qualify, it could prove to make your life dramatically better.