If you have chronic kidney disease, a kidney transplant may be a renal replacement treatment option for you. Kidneys can be donated by a living person (living donor transplantation), or by someone who has died (deceased donor transplantation).
Kidneys from living donors are more likely to survive being transplanted than kidneys from deceased donors, and the people who receive kidneys from living donors have a better quality of life.
We focus on living donor transplantation because it has the best chance of success. For information about deceased donor transplantation, please talk to your healthcare team.
Living Donor Transplantation
Most people have 2 kidneys, but can be healthy with just 1. A person may choose to donate a kidney to someone whose kidneys are failing. Living donors can be family members, spouses, friends, strangers and anonymous individuals. People who want to donate their kidneys must be tested and evaluated at a transplant hospital to see if they are eligible.
If you have a potential living donor who is not a match for you, you may be entered into the Kidney Paired Donation Program. This program helps find pairs that are a good match by exchanging donors with different recipients across Canada. For more information about the program, visit the Canadian Blood Services.
The Typical Transplant Process
Step 1: Informed Decision-Making
If you have been diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease and are in the care of a nephrologist and multidisciplinary team, you will get information about your treatment options. With your care team, you will discuss them and decide whether a kidney transplant is the best option for you.
Step 2: Referral
Once you decide to have a kidney transplant, you will be referred to one of Ontario’s 6 transplant hospitals. Which one you go to will depend on where you receive your kidney care. You will need to have some medical tests done for the referral. After you have the tests, you will go to the transplant hospital for a transplant work-up visit (see Step 3).
Step 3: Evaluation
At the transplant hospital, a team of specialists will find out if you are suitable for a kidney transplant. If you are, you will be placed on the provincial waitlist for a kidney donated by someone who has died (deceased donor transplantation). If you have any potential living donors, they will also be evaluated at the transplant hospital to see if they are suitable for donation and if they are a match for you.
Step 4: The Waitlist
A donor and recipient matching system determines when there is a match for you based on factors such as blood type and medical urgency. You will stay on the waitlist until a match is found.
Step 5: Managing Your Care
Your kidney care team, your transplant care team and your primary care providers will help you stay as healthy as possible. A kidney can become available at any time. You need to be as healthy as possible before having a transplant.
Step 6: Planning Ahead
Your transplant care team will work continuously with you and your family to make sure everyone is prepared for the transplant. This includes providing support before and after the transplant.
Step 7: Post-Transplant Care
After the transplant, you will continue to receive care and support from your transplant care team. They will give you instructions and guidance for your ongoing care and recovery at home.
If you choose to pursue a kidney transplantation, you will meet many types of healthcare providers during the process, including:
- nephrologists (kidney doctors)
- transplant surgeons
- nurse practitioners
- social workers
- transplant coordinators
- cardiologists (heart doctors)
- psychologists and psychiatrists
For more information about the organ transplant process and living donations, visit the Trillium Gift of Life Network.