Preparing for Your Visit
If you or someone you care about is interested in pursuing kidney transplantation, you may have a lot of questions about how the process works and what to expect along the way. Jefferson's Kidney Transplant Program has a supportive staff to help guide you through the process — from initial evaluation to transplantation and postoperative care.
If you are just getting started, read this page carefully for a high-level overview of what to expect as a patient of Jefferson's Kidney Transplant Program.
Initial Evaluation, Testing and Review
Step 1: Initial Evaluation
Your first step is to call Jefferson's Kidney Transplant Program to schedule an initial evaluation, at 1-888-955-TRAN. We offer these appointments weekly at our Center City Philadelphia and Jefferson at the Navy Yard locations and once a month at our New Jersey satellite locations in Egg Harbor and Voorhees.
Plan to spend at least half a day for this appointment. First, you will see a brief video that explains the transplant process at Jefferson. You will then meet with:
- A transplant coordinator (a nurse who serves as your point of contact throughout the process)
- A social worker (a professional who evaluates your readiness for transplantation and helps support your psychosocial needs)
- A financial coordinator (who helps in navigating and negotiating insurance and other payment issues)
- A transplant nephrologist (kidney specialist) or transplant surgeon
Finally, you will receive a list of the tests (also known as studies) that you will need to complete in order to be evaluated. Examples of these tests include blood work, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram and kidney ultrasound. Depending on your age and gender, you may also need a stress test, colonoscopy, mammogram and/or Pap smear.
Step 2: Testing and Review
Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be able to complete some of these studies on the same day as your initial evaluation. In many cases, you will need to pursue the testing on your own. How quickly you undergo the tests will determine how quickly the Kidney Transplant Program team is able to review the results and determine whether or not you are a suitable candidate for a kidney transplant.
Getting Listed and Staying Ready
Step 3: Being Listed
If you are approved for a transplant, you will receive a phone call from your transplant coordinator, as well as a written letter in the mail confirming that you're being placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant list. At this time, we will also provide you with detailed instructions for what to do next.
Step 4: Staying Ready
Transplant candidates can be on the list for as long as five or six years. Whether you wait years or are fortunate to be matched earlier, you have an important role to play in the transplantation process. While you are waiting, it is critically important that you:
- Provide blood samples on a monthly basis for the Jefferson tissue-typing lab
- Keep all of your studies up to date, as indicated in the instructions we will provide
- Keep us informed of any changes to your health; these changes (such as recently diagnosed conditions or other surgeries) can affect your ability to receive a transplant
- Ensure that we always have your latest insurance information so that we can stay on top of any changes to your financial situation
- Contact us any time your phone numbers and/or address change; just as important, be sure to leave your phone on around the clock so that we can reach you if and when a potential organ becomes available
- Come in to Jefferson for re-evaluations at the frequency determined by our Program to continue to assess your suitability for transplantation.
If we can't reach you, if your tests or blood work aren't up to date or if your insurance coverage has changed, it could mean the difference between receiving an organ – and continuing to wait.
Transplantation and Ongoing Follow-Up
Step 5: Transplantation
Once a suitable organ is identified, you will undergo the actual transplantation surgery. Some patients receive a few hours of notice; in other cases, patients must drop everything and head to the Emergency Room right away. If you are receiving a kidney from a living donor, your surgery will be scheduled in advance.
If you receive a kidney from a living donor, you will typically be in the hospital for about four days after surgery. If you receive a kidney from a deceased donor, you will typically be in the hospital for about five days after surgery.
Step 6: Ongoing Follow-Up
The work isn't over after you receive your transplant. We will provide you with detailed instructions about the antirejection and other medications you will need to take and lifestyle changes you will need to make to preserve your kidney function. In addition, we will monitor you closely:
- For the first month after surgery, you will come in for clinic appointments every Monday and Friday.
- For the second month after surgery, you will come in for clinic appointments once a week (either Monday or Friday).
- For the third month after surgery, you will come in for clinic appointments every other week.
After the first 12 weeks, you will still visit the clinic, but the visits will be less frequent.