Recovering From Kidney Transplant Surgery

At Sentara, we understand how to help patients recover from kidney transplant surgery. We have been performing kidney transplants since 1972, giving us a unique depth of expertise in healing and recovery.

Your Sentara care team will be with you throughout your recovery phase. Your doctor and transplant coordinator will:

  • Advise you on how physically active you can be while you recover
  • Familiarize you with new medications you will take to prevent kidney rejection
  • Alert you to warning signs of infection or other kidney problems
  • Help you transition back to everyday life
  • Living with Your New Kidney

    It is important to be patient with yourself after your procedure. You may experience some abdominal discomfort for several weeks after your surgery. This is completely normal. Also, it may take the time to adjust to your new immunosuppressant medications, which you will take for life to prevent kidney rejection.

    • Expect ongoing follow-up: Your Sentara health team will closely monitor your health for the first year after your kidney transplant. For the first month or two, you may have several appointments per week at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. If you live far from Norfolk, you may need to make arrangements to stay in town for a few weeks.
    • Transition to more accessible appointments: Over time, your appointments will probably become less frequent. Some blood tests may be done at a Sentara location closer to your home.
    • Rely on your Sentara transplant coordinator: We are here to help. Your transplant coordinator can help answer any questions you may have during your recovery period.
  • When You Go Home:

    After you leave the hospital, you may walk and climb stairs. However, we do not recommend lifting anything heavier than a phone book for the first 3-4 weeks. We also advise you not to drive for 3-4 weeks. More to know:

    • Fatigue: You may need frequent daily naps for several weeks after transplant surgery. This is completely normal.
    • Exercise: When you feel well enough, we strongly encourage you to start walking as much as you feel able.
    • Returning to work: You may be able to go back to your job in 6-8 weeks. Your timeline will depend on the type of work you do.
  • Protect Your Kidney Health

    Most patients live very normal lives after kidney transplant surgery. At the same time, you will need to watch your health closely to be sure your new kidney has the best possible chance of surviving in your body.

    • Dietary guidelines: Your doctor and transplant coordinator will let you know if you have any dietary restrictions. They should not be as challenging as they may have been if you were on dialysis.
    • Medication cautions: You will need to avoid certain over-the-counter and prescription medications that may make your immunosuppressant drugs (to prevent kidney rejection) less effective. Your doctor will give you a complete list. Common medications/herbs to avoid include:
      • Erythromycin (antibiotic)
      • John’s Wort
      • Some common blood pressure medications
      • Several anti-tuberculosis and anti-seizure medicines
  • Watch for Signs of Infection or Kidney Rejection

    In most cases, you will begin to feel better within about 6-8 weeks of your transplant surgery. However, your doctor will warn you to keep a close watch for signs of a developing infection or problems with your new kidney. 

    If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your nephrologist right away. They may be signs of serious illness.

    Signs of Possible Infection:

    • Cough or cold that will not seem to go away
    • Fever higher than 100 degrees
    • Burning feeling when you urinate
    • Pus draining from your surgical incision

    Signs of Possible Kidney Rejection:

    • Increase in your blood pressure
    • Significant decrease in how much you urinate
    • Sudden ankle swelling
    • Rapid increase in your weight
    • Swelling and/or tenderness around location of new kidney
  • Contact Us

    For more information or to talk with our kidney transplant specialists, call us at 757-388-3906 or 800-865-7644.

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