Conditions + Treatments

Kidney Transplant Treatments & Care

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Contact the Kidney Transplant Program

For about two-thirds of children who receive kidney transplants, treatment starts with a course of dialysis  to make sure they’re in the best health possible for the transplant. If your child’s doctors think that she should receive dialysis, they will explain the options to you fully.

Once you’ve been notified that a new donor kidney has been found, things move very quickly. It’s normal to be nervous, but our team will make sure that you and your family are comfortable and informed.

What if my child is receiving a kidney from a living donor?

If your child is receiving a kidney from a living donor, her admission will be scheduled for the day before the surgery.

What happens when we arrive at the hospital?

When you arrive at the hospital, you'll go directly to the Transplant Unit, an inpatient unit designed for solid organ transplant patients. There, members of your the transplant team will perform a physical exam and run some tests to make sure your child is ready to go to the operating room. Your child may need to undergo dialysis before transplant.

How long will the transplant operation take?

Most kidney transplants take around four to six hours, although this could vary greatly depending on your child’s case. During the surgery, a member of the transplant team will keep you informed about the progress of the transplant.

What happens after surgery?

After the surgery, depending on how closely your child needs to be monitored, she will go to either the intensive care unit (ICU) on 7 South or the Transplant Unit on 10 South. After her condition is stable, your family is welcomed to visit.

During this time, the transplant team will educate you and your family on all aspects of caring for your child after her operation. This will include information about medications, activity, follow-up, diet and any other specific instructions.

We know that a transplant operation is a time of great anxiety, and your child’s entire transplant team will be available to answer questions throughout her hospitalization.

How long will my child be in the hospital after the transplant?

This may depend on how sick your child was going into transplant, but a typical hospital stay is one to two weeks.

If my child was given a kidney from a living donor, how long will that person be in the hospital after the operation?

People who donate a kidney are usually hospitalized for around three days after the surgery, but will require three to four weeks for full recovery.

Follow up

Your child will have very close follow-up with the transplant team after leaving the hospital to monitor her overall health and the function of the new kidney. These follow-up visits will include:

  • a complete physical examination
  • continuing education for you and your child
  • medication changes
  • kidney tests to make sure that the transplanted kidney is working normally
  • blood work to make sure your child is getting the right dosage of medication

Your child’s transplant team will design a drug regime tailored to meet your child’s needs. Expect that the dosage will change — typically, the doses

  1. are high for the first few months after transplant, when the risk of rejection is greatest
  2. change frequently during the first year as your child’s body adjusts to the transplant
  3. gradually reduce to "maintenance" levels by about one year after the surgery

How often will my child need follow-up appointments?

Your child will typically be asked to come in to Children’s or to her local specialist twice per week for the first two months after the transplant, and then once per week for the next two months. After that, they are generally less frequent unless a problem arises.

These visits are essential to make sure your child’s medicine is at the right dosage, catch and treat any complications that might arise and make sure that your family and your child’s transplant team remain in touch.

How can I help keep my child safe after the transplant?

We understand that you will want to do everything possible to protect your child and her new kidney, and there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of infection. 

What's the long-term outlook for my child after kidney transplant?

Since every child is unique and every transplant is different, there’s no way to know for sure. On average, a transplanted kidney should function for about 10 years (from a deceased donor) to 20 years (from a living donor). When the new kidney loses functionality, and your child has end-stage renal disease (ESRD) she can go back on dialysis to improve and stabilize her health before the next surgery, and then her name is put on the kidney transplant list. 

Results continually improve as physicians and scientists learn more about how the body deals with transplanted organs and search for ways to improve transplantation.

Coping and support

We understand how disruptive and frightening a kidney transplant can be — not only for your child, but for your whole family. From your first visit, you’ll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting you.

Patient education: Our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child’s treatment and help answer any questions you may have — What symptoms might my child have? What do we do next? They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children’s.

Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has had a kidney transplant? We may be able to put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.

Faith-based support: If you are in need of spiritual support, we will help connect you with the Children’s chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your hospital experience.

Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child’s condition, stresses relating to waiting for an organ, and dealing with financial difficulties.

And on our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

  • getting to Boston Children’s
  • accommodations
  • navigating the hospital experience
  • resources that are available for your family
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944