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Getting a Kidney Transplant

You may be eligible for a kidney transplant if you need dialysis due to end-stage kidney (renal) failure or your kidneys are performing at less than 20 percent of their normal function.

You may feel overwhelmed by the idea of a transplant. Our dedicated team guides you through each step of this journey, addressing any questions or concerns you may have.

The kidney transplant program at UNC Medical Center has a national reputation for excellence. Our transplant team successfully performs a high number of kidney transplants every year, so you are in skilled, expert hands. We also have the expertise to transplant kidneys along with other organs, such as pancreas, liver, lung or heart.

What Causes Kidney Failure?

Medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease can slow or stop kidney damage. But these treatments may not be enough or may stop working. You have an increased risk of needing a kidney transplant if you have:

Kidney Transplant Screenings

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the waiting list for people needing a kidney transplant. To be placed on this list, you first have a range of medical tests to ensure that you are able to undergo a transplant, including:

  • Physical exam with blood tests
  • Renal ultrasound to assess kidney size and appearance
  • Electrocardiogram to test heart function
  • Chest X-ray
  • Mental health assessment

Getting on the Kidney Transplant Waiting List

If tests show that you are a candidate for a kidney transplant, we get you on the national waiting list. We will place you on this list even if you have someone willing to donate a kidney to you. Sometimes living kidney donors are not the best match or they are unable to donate. Transplant wait times depend on several factors, including blood type and length of time on dialysis.

If you do not qualify for a kidney transplant due to poor overall health, excess weight or other complications, you can receive ongoing care from specialists at the UNC Kidney Center.

Support Services for Families

You and your family work with a dedicated kidney transplant coordinator. This specialist guides you through the transplant evaluation process and is available 24/7 to answer questions.

A different transplant coordinator will guide you through the waiting list process and transplant surgery. A post-transplant coordinator helps during recovery.

You also have access to a patient support team. These experts assist with accommodations, billing issues, mental health counseling and other services.

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