What to do when you are called in for a kidney transplant

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When a kidney becomes available, you must come to the hospital immediately, no matter what time of the day or night you are called. Make sure you ask your transplant co-ordinator where to go when you arrive at the hospital and write this down in your journal if you think you might forget it.

As soon as you get a call

Once you are called, do not eat or drink anything. You will need to have an empty stomach for your surgery.

Arriving at the hospital

When you arrive at the hospital, you will go where the transplant nurse has told you to go. Once you arrive there, you will meet your healthcare team and have a number of tests and procedures.

Sharing information with your healthcare team

The doctors will have some questions for you when you come into the hospital. Be ready to tell them:

  • the last time you had a blood transfusion
  • the last time you remember being sick, especially with an infection or fever
  • all the medications or drugs you are taking, including those prescribed by your doctor, over-the-counter medications, herbal products and any street drugs
  • whether you are a smoker or you drink coffee every day – this is very important
  • when you last had something to eat or drink.

This information will help your team to plan better for your anaesthetic (sleep medicine for your surgery), recovery and pain control.

Cross-match testing

A cross-match test is a final blood test to check for any infection or antibodies and see if you are a match with the potential donor. It can take up to 10 hours to get the results of this test.

If the test shows that the kidney is not a good match for you, you will need to go home without the kidney transplant. This can be very disappointing.

Sometimes, the transplant can go ahead before the results cross-match test results are ready. This can happen only if you:

  • have had at least three PRA samples that show no antibodies in your blood (that is, PRA is 0 percent)
  • have not had a recent blood transfusion or viral illness.

Other tests

You will have other tests such as a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to make sure you're ready for surgery.


If you are confirmed to be ready for the deceased donor kidney, you will have a bath with a special antiseptic soap.

Medications before your transplant

Before your surgery, you will have an IV (intravenous) line placed in either your arm or the back of your hand or in your central venous line (CVL), if you already have one. Your nurse will use the IV to give you medication and fluid. These medications include an antibiotic (to prevent infection) and immunosuppressant medication to help prevent rejection of your new kidney.

Is there a long wait between the tests and the surgery?

While you are waiting for surgery, there can be long stretches with nothing to do. The urologist and nephrologist will see you and your parents and will answer any final questions and explain the surgery once again. You (or your parent) will also need to sign a consent form.

Remember, even though you may be waiting a while before your surgery, do not eat or drink anything unless your transplant team says you can.

Repeated calls for a transplant

You may be called to the hospital more than once. This can happen for one of two reasons.

  • You are called as a “back up” for a kidney. This means that someone else is first in line for a kidney, but the kidney will become yours if the other person is not a match for the donor.
  • You are called in for a transplant, but the transplant team finds that the kidney is not a match for you, for instance because of antibodies in your blood. You would then return home and be called in again when another kidney is found.
Last updated: November 30th 2017