The Transplant Institute of Florida’s kidney transplantation program at Largo Medical Center has been built to serve patients with renal failure in our community and beyond with highly specialized services.
There are many reasons why a person's kidneys fail to function properly. Whatever the reason for failure, there are treatment options available and each patient eventually will have to choose what is best for him/her. The current treatments options are:
- Hemodialysis- treatments done in clinic setting-usually 3 times per week
- Peritoneal Dialysis- daily treatments done at home-usually 7 days per week
- Transplantation- transplant surgery, then anti-rejection medications daily
Each treatment choice should be discussed with your kidney doctor (nephrologist) so that together you can make a decision on what will be best for you.
Dedicated Transplant Unit
Along with top notch service, The Transplant Institute of Florida also offers a dedicated transplant unit. This specialized unit helps patients postsurgery with staff that is fully committed to providing care to patients after surgery. Their goal is to help expedite and guide patients through the recovery process. Their training and expertise is designed specifically towards treating post-transplant patients.
Patient referral process
If you have chosen transplantation as a treatment option for your kidney failure, there are several steps in beginning the process. The first thing you will need to do is be referred to the transplant program by either your nephrologist, dialysis center or yourself.
When you are referred to the Transplant Institute of Florida Program, you will undergo an evaluation to determine whether you are a good candidate according to medical and psychological criteria. Prior to the evaluation, you will be invited to attend our pre-transplant education class. This class will be your first opportunity to explore the option of kidney transplantation and whether it is the right option for you.
Education Session- This is a mandatory session for all transplant candidates. It is designed to help familiarize patients with getting prepared for evaluation, to testing, being placed on the waiting list, and going home after the transplant surgery. TIF encourages all patients to bring a family member or friend with them to this session. All attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions throughout this class.
Kidney Transplant Evaluation
There are several steps in the evaluation process for kidney transplantation. After financial approval has been received, you will be scheduled for an education class. After you and your family has decided that transplant is right for you, contact TIF and you will be scheduled for your initial clinic evaluation. The evaluation will include the following:
Lab and Diagnostic Testing - Each transplant candidate is required to have a series of blood tests. There are also some basic diagnostic tests that will be scheduled as well, which include: chest x-ray, EKG, and abdominal CT scan. All test results will be reviewed by the transplant physicians. Further testing is sometimes required, but this will be ordered on an individual basis.
Appointments with Transplant Team
The most important member of the team is you and your ongoing commitment to good health.
Each transplant candidate will be scheduled to meet individually with all of the following members of the transplant team:
- Transplant Nephrologist
- Transplant Surgeon
- Social Worker
- Transplant pharmacist
- Financial coordinator
- Transplant coordinator
Medical Review Board - When the evaluation appointments have been completed, the transplant coordinator will present each patient's case to the Medical Review board. The Committee is comprised of many members of the transplant team that will review each patient's records to make sure they are complete, then a collective decision will be made regarding suitability for transplant. If a patient is found suitable for transplant, his/her name will be placed on the national organ waiting list.
Once a kidney has been identified as a possible match for you, a transplant coordinator will call you with instructions on how you will proceed through the process. A special blood test called a "crossmatch" will be performed in the lab with your blood and the kidney donor's blood to assess for compatibility. If you are found to be compatible, the kidney transplant surgery will proceed as planned. If you are found to be incompatible, you will still remain on the list for the next available kidney.
- Surgery - The kidney transplant will take approximately 2-4 hours to complete and is done under general anesthesia.
- Hospitalization - The average hospital stay after a kidney transplant is usually about 5-7 days. After surgery, the kidney recipient usually spends the first 24-48 hours in the intensive care unit, and is then transferred to the transplant unit for the remainder of the hospital stay.
- Risks - As with any surgery, there will always be a potential for complications such as: bleeding, pneumonia, blood clot formation, infection, wound problems, and cardiac issues. The added risks of transplant surgery are the possibility of rejection of the kidney or delayed function of the kidney. Any of these issues could prolong the hospital stay.
Your follow-up care is crucial to the success of your kidney transplant. The Transplant Institute of Florida offers a post kidney transplant clinic at varying times from Monday through Friday. The Transplant Institute will provide your physician with regular updates and reports on your progress.
- Clinic Visits - Initially, you will be required to attend clinic visits 3 times per week. Each visit lasts approximately 4 hours and includes lab work and visits with physicians/nurse practitioners and transplant coordinators. If after one month, everything is stable, the frequency of the visits will be decreased to two times per week, then eventually once per week. At the end of the six month period, you will be referred back to your nephrologist for routine care, and follow ups will be annual to the transplant clinic.
- Medications - All transplant recipients are required to take anti-rejection medication for as long as they have the transplant. Without these medications, the body recognizes the kidney as something foreign, and works to reject it. You will receive personal instructions on how to take your medications before you are discharged from the hospital. The importance of taking medications properly after transplant will be reinforced continually by the transplant team.
- Financial Responsibilities - The anti-rejection medications needed after transplant can be very expensive-depending on what type of insurance coverage you may have. It is important to plan for these added expenses, as well as the expense of frequent trips to the transplant clinic and uncompensated time off work. Our financial coordinators and social workers will work with you to come up with a plan before the actual transplant takes place. If you need assistance after the transplant they are also available to help you follow through with your plan.
One option available to some kidney transplant patients is to receive a kidney from a living donor. We encourage live kidney donation as a central part of our program due to its multiple advantages and benefits to patients with renal failure. This person may be a blood relative such as a parent or sibling. A spouse or friend may also be a donor. Because each person is born with two kidneys, and only one is necessary to maintain function, it is possible for a living person to donate a kidney to a patient.