Taking medications and looking after your IV line

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Going home after your transplant is an exciting part of your transplant journey. However, you will want to make sure that you know exactly how to take care of your kidney properly when you go home.

Before you go home from the hospital, you will want to know:

  • what your medications, or medicines, are called
  • when to take them
  • how to take them (for example with food or on an empty stomach)
  • what your medicines do
  • what side effects your medicines have
  • any special precautions you must take
  • what to do if you vomit after taking your medicines
  • how to store your medicines
  • how to get a new prescription.

Some hos​pitals will have you practise setting out your own medications so that you can follow the same routine when you go home. Preparing your own medications with the help of a nurse can be the best way to get familiar with them.

Review the handout Five Questions to Ask About My Medicine. It will help you be better prepared to discuss your medications with your health-care team.

You will also want to have a written schedule that shows you when to take your medications. You can use one of two templates – horizontal or vertical – to create your own medication schedule at home.

There are lots of other things to learn as you prepare to go home after your transplant.

Checking before taking any medications not prescribed by your team

Many medications can interact with your immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) medications. Some may cause more side effects and others could lead to a rejection.

Always talk with your transplant nurse before you take any over-the-counter medications, natural (herbal) medications or medications that are prescribed to you by a doctor outside your transplant team. A nephrologist (kidney specialist) or a doctor who specializes in transplants will know best how your medications will work together.


Check with your transplant nurse before getting any immunizations (vaccines). Never get a live vaccine after transplant; your body’s immune system may not be strong enough to kill the virus in the vaccine, which could lead to a serious infection.

Don’t get any vaccines (shots) for the first six months after your transplant. They will not work because you will still be on high doses of immunosuppressants. After six months, you can keep your vaccinations up to date, except for live vaccines.

Medic Alert

After your transplant, you should order a Medic Alert bracelet. This bracelet has information about your transplant and any allergies you have. Once you get the bracelet, wear it all the time, as it will help you get the right treatment if you ever need medical help in an emergency. A nurse on the transplant team can help you fill in the Medic Ale​rt order form​.

IV line (CVL or PICC)

You will have a central venous line (CVL) or a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC) for several months after your transplant. The line provides an easy way for your transplant team to take blood and give you your medications when you come to hospital.

Keeping your IV line dry

You must keep the dressing for your central line dry. While showering, cover it with something waterproof such as saran wrap or a plastic bag and use a hand-held showering unit so you can point the spray away from that area of your body. You will also have to avoid swimming while the line is in place.

Changes to dressings and caps

Your CVL dressing will be changed twice a week and your caps will be changed once a week. This will either be done at home by a nurse or at the hospital.

Last updated: November 30th 2017