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 when the kidneys fail. 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.