Hepatitis C and kidney transplants

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Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
March 28, 2022

Kidney transplant is considered the best treatment option for patients with kidney failure. If you decide you want a kidney transplant, you must be tested at a transplant center to see whether you are ready for the transplant surgery. This evaluation looks at your physical health, mental health and financial status.

Getting a kidney transplant when you have hepatitis C

You can still be eligible (i.e., allowed) to get a kidney transplant if you have hepatitis C. When you have hepatitis C, your transplant team will consider the health of your liver:

  • If your liver is badly damaged, you may not be recommended for a kidney transplant.
  • In certain cases, if your liver is damaged but you are healthy otherwise, you may be considered for a kidney and liver transplant at the same time.

If you are approved for transplant, your doctor might suggest you get a kidney from a person with hepatitis C or from a person without hepatitis C.

Getting a kidney from a person with hepatitis C

Getting a kidney transplant from someone who has hepatitis C might allow you to get a kidney transplant faster because hepatitis C-positive kidneys are in less demand. You would then be treated with medicine for hepatitis C after the transplant surgery.

Getting a kidney from a person without hepatitis C

You would stay on the regular waiting list for a kidney transplant and be treated for hepatitis C before the transplant surgery.

In the past, treatment for hepatitis C could cause problems for the new transplanted kidney. Now that new medicines for hepatitis C have been created, this is less of a problem. Work with your doctor to decide which medicines for hepatitis C are best for you if you are considering, or have had, a kidney transplant.

Getting a kidney transplant from a person who HAS hepatitis C when you DON'T HAVE hepatitis C.

Within the last few years, there have been a few cases where doctors transplant a hepatitis C-infected kidney into the body of a person without hepatitis C. This means that when you receive your new kidney, you will probably become infected with hepatitis C. But once you receive your new kidney, you will be treated with drugs to cure the hepatitis C.

The health of people who receive a kidney transplant is better than the health of people on long-term dialysis. Hepatitis C can be cured without too many side effects. This makes getting a kidney transplant the top priority.

Researchers are still studying this type of transplant, but it has shown very positive results for patients who have had it done so far.