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, hundreds of 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.
Living Kidney Donation Program
UAB’s Living Kidney Donation Program enables healthy people to donate a kidney to someone who has kidney failure and needs a transplant. It helps address the lack of available deceased-donor organs, and today, about half of the kidney transplants performed at UAB come from living donors. An outpatient evaluation is performed to determine if the potential donor is a proper match for the recipient. Read more about the Living Kidney Donation Program.
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 Advocate”. We provide advocates and their patients with educational materials and resources to help locate potential living donors. Read more about the Living Donor Navigator Program.
- Why Choose UAB for TransplantConvenience, innovation, and expanded access to organs set the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute apart in providing the highest caliber of care to our patients.WatchClose
- Jan Jones | Kidney & Pancreas Transplant RecipientAfter struggling with type 1 diabetes since childhood, Jan Jones was cured with a combined kidney/pancreas transplant at UAB.WatchClose
- Carol Graydon | Kidney Transplant Donor62-year-old grandmother donates kidney to save 2-year-old granddaughter suffering from rare congenital nephrotic syndromeWatchClose
- FOX 6 Medical Minute: Living Kidney DonationThe UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute is a leader in living-donor kidney transplantation.WatchClose
- Amanda’s Transplant StoryAmanda shares her transplant journey.WatchClose
- Ann and Tess’s Transplant StoryAnn and Tess share their transplant journey.WatchClose
- Shaun and Leslie’s Transplant StoryShaun and Leslie share their transplant experience.WatchClose
Find a Provider to Schedule an Appointment
Watch Patient Videos
Get all your questions answered by watching our video series
Are you a Physician or Provider?
24-Hour Consultation Referral Services
Speak to your physician about your options and browse the link below for more information
Featured HighlightsView All News
February 6, 2023
December 29, 2022
Latest NewsView All News
New study: Pig kidneys — for the first time — demonstrate “life-sustaining kidney function” in a human
August 16, 2023
UAB’s first uterus transplant recipient delivers healthy baby
July 24, 2023
FDA mandate to limit acetaminophen in acetaminophen-opioid medications is associated with reduced serious liver injury
March 7, 2023
Legacy of Hope to sponsor 2023 Donate Life Rose Parade®, honor donor and xenotransplant recipient Jim Parsons
November 2, 2022
Determination and inspiration led to the gift of new lungs
August 10, 2022