Kidney Transplant Services
Since the first kidney transplant was performed in 1972 in the region at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, there have been more than 1,800 patients receiving kidney transplants. The program performs an average of 90–100 kidney transplants annually, and we are very proud of our success rate. More than half of the 90–100 kidney transplants performed each year are from living donors. With rare exception, those are performed laparoscopically through 3–4 small incisions which allows for a much quicker recovery for the donor.
It is our mission to be the kidney transplant program for all residents in southeastern Virginia, and in neighboring areas of the Eastern Shore and northeastern North Carolina. Located in Norfolk, Virginia, the Sentara Transplant Center is the only transplant center in southeastern Virginia and is one of the most active kidney transplant programs in Virginia.
How do you get started?
The first step is to tell your nephrologist that you want to learn more about kidney transplantation. Your physician will send your medical information to the Sentara Transplant Center. You will be scheduled to attend our kidney transplant class where you will meet with a transplant surgeon, transplant coordinator, financial coordinator, and the dietitian.
If you decide to pursue transplantation, you will have a series of medical tests that includes blood tests, ultrasound studies, cardiac studies and x-rays. In addition, females are required to have a PAP smear and mammogram. You will also be referred for physical examinations by the transplant nephrologist and will meet with the transplant social worker. This thorough evaluation is intended to guarantee that you are healthy enough for transplant surgery.
Our transplant team is made up of many dedicated specialists that includes transplant nephrologists, transplant and urologic surgeons, an infectious disease doctor, an immune system specialist, transplant coordinators, pharmacists, social workers, and other professionals and support personnel dedicated to the care of kidney transplant patients. Patients, their families, their referring physicians and dialysis unit staff are important members of the team as well. We make every effort to include them in decisions throughout the transplant process.
Where are the sources for new kidneys?
One of the best sources for a kidney is from a family member that is related to you. This is alled a “living related” donor. Another source is a living donor who is not a blood relative, such as your spouse or a friend. This is a “living unrelated” donor. If you are not fortunate enough to find a living donor, you will be placed on a national transplant waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. These donors are individuals who have died with healthy organs. Their wishes to donate were previously expressed in writing or communication with their family members.
Because of the shortage of deceased donor kidneys, only half of the patients waiting for transplants will receive a kidney. The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney can be very long, sometimes years. We encourage potential recipients to discuss the possibility of living donation with their family and friends.
What should I expect from transplant surgery?
When a suitable kidney becomes available, you will be contacted by a transplant coordinator who will give you any instructions that you may need. If you are compatible with the kidney donor, you will be admitted immediately to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and prepared for surgery. The transplant operation takes about 3 to 4 hours. You will wake up in the Intensive Care Unit where you will be monitored closely for one or two days. Then you will be transferred to a surgical unit where the staff is experienced in caring for transplant recipients. Transplant patients generally remain in the hospital for 4 to 5 days.
During your hospital stay, the transplant team members will be watching for signs that your body is trying to reject the new kidney. This is a natural response that is blocked by the transplant medications that you will be given. The transplant coordinators and nurses will teach you about the medications you must take to prevent rejection, the warning signs of rejection, and help you understand how to care for your new kidney. As a kidney recipient, you will make a lifelong commitment of responsibility in caring for your new kidney. You can help your body accept the new kidney by taking your medication properly, seeing your nephrologist regularly, and taking good care of yourself.
What are the financial concerns?
Most patients with end-stage renal disease are eligible for Medicare. Medicare covers the cost of kidney transplantation for the first three years following the surgery. Most other health insurance policies also provide coverage for the costs of a kidney transplant. Sentara Transplant Center’s financial coordinator will help you evaluate your coverage for surgery and the post-transplant medications.
Talk to your physician or your dialysis staff if you would like to be referred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for a kidney transplant evaluation. If you are accepted as a transplant candidate, you should discuss the possibility of living donation with your family and friends.
Your best chance for receiving a successful transplant will occur if someone is willing and able to donate to you.
A Team Approach
Our transplant team, comprised of many dedicated specialists, includes transplant nephrologists, transplant and urologic surgeons, a dedicated infectious disease specialist and immunologist, certified transplant coordinators, pharmacists, social workers, and other professionals and support personnel dedicated to the care of kidney transplant patients.
Patients, their families, and their referring physicians and dialysis unit staff members are important members of the team as well. We make every effort to include them in decision making throughout the transplant process.