Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is an operation in which a person whose kidneys have failed receives a healthy kidney donated from someone who is alive or deceased. We provide kidney transplants to eligible children ages 1 through 18 whose kidneys have failed.

Before your child can receive a new kidney, the care team will do an extensive evaluation. This gives them a better understanding of your child's overall health and helps them decide if a transplant is the best treatment option. During this time, your child may need to start or continue dialysis treatment.

Testing includes:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging studies (chest X-ray, echocardiogram)
  • Psychosocial evaluations of the child (if the child is old enough) and family

You and your child will meet with many members of the transplant team as part of the evaluation. These experts will talk to you about what to expect and answer questions you may have. You will meet with the following individuals and perhaps others:

  • Nephrologist (kidney specialist)
  • Transplant surgeon
  • Transplant coordinator
  • Registered dietitian
  • Social worker
  • Pharmacist

Your family will also meet with a financial coordinator to discuss costs related to your child's transplant and follow-up care. The financial coordinator serves as a resource for patients and their family members to help navigate through the complex insurance issues associated with transplant.

If your child is expected to receive a kidney from a living donor, the living donor will undergo an extensive evaluation at our adult partner hospital.

After the Kidney Transplant Evaluation

Once the evaluation is complete, the kidney transplant selection committee will determine whether to recommend transplant surgery at this time. If the answer is yes, your child will be placed on the national kidney transplant waitlist. This list is maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

The waiting time can be several months to years and is influenced by many factors such as how common your child's blood type is and your child's age. While you wait, the most important thing is to help your child stay as healthy as possible.

Kidney transplant surgeries take place at Phoenix Children's Hospital - Thomas Campus. If your child is receiving a kidney from a living donor, the donor's surgery will take place at nearby St. Joseph Hospital & Medical Center.

Most children receive just one kidney during transplant surgery. The surgery will take three to five hours under general anesthesia. The transplant surgeon will make a cut (incision) in the lower belly and attach the new kidney to blood vessels and the bladder. Your child's nonworking kidney (or kidneys) will likely remain in your child's body unless they are causing other medical problems.

The new kidneys should start working within a few hours (faster if your child receives a kidney from a living donor). After surgery, your child will go to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for approximately two days. Most children leave the hospital within about eight days. A child who is experiencing medical complications may need to stay longer.

It's natural to be a little nervous when you and your child return home after the surgery. Please know that the care team is always available to answer your questions and respond to any concerns. We will monitor your child's progress closely and make sure you have the information you need to provide great care at home.

Your child will be taking many new medications to keep the new kidney healthy. In the first few weeks after surgery, it is vital to protect your child from getting an infection. Avoid crowded indoor spaces and keep your child at home, except for medical visits. The transplant team will want to see your child frequently for the first several months. They will do blood tests and physical exams to check your child's kidney function and treat any problems.

If everything is going well after a few months, your child will return to the clinic less frequently. Your child should see a nephrologist for the rest of their lives, just to make sure everything is going well. Most children go on to live healthy, normal lives after a kidney transplant.