If your doctor thinks you may benefit from having a kidney transplant, he or she can refer you to a transplant center, which is a hospital that does organ transplants. Once you have found a transplant center, the first step is to have a transplant evaluation. During this evaluation, you will have blood tests, x-rays and other exams to make sure that having a transplant would be safe for you.

You will need to go to the transplant center to have the evaluation. You may be able to finish the evaluation in one day, or you may have to do it over several days. On the day of your evaluation, you and your family will meet the members of the transplant team to learn about preparing for a kidney transplant, what to expect during the recovery period, medicines you will need to take and more. The transplant team members will also need to learn about you. You might need to answer questions about your finances, your support system and your health insurance policy. You will also have tests that will help the doctors learn about your kidneys and your overall health. These tests might include:

  • Blood tests to figure out your blood type
  • Tissue-typing tests to learn about certain parts of your tissue that will need to match your donor kidney
  • Screening tests for diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis
  • Prostate exam (for men)
  • Mammogram and Pap smear (for women)
  • Heart and lung exams
  • Kidney and liver function tests
  • Colon exam

The transplant team will also ensure that you are in good mental health. You will meet with the transplant social worker to have this part of the evaluation.

If, after the evaluation is complete, your transplant team decides that you are ready for transplant and you decide that you want to have a transplant, you may be added to the national waiting list for a donor kidney. If you have a living kidney donor, you may have your transplant as soon as both you and your donor are ready.

The transplant team may decide that you are not ready for transplant. This could happen if you have a health problem that could make the transplant surgery dangerous for you. Some health problems can be treated so that you can have your transplant. Other problems that could keep you from having a transplant include:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Mental illness
  • History of missing treatment sessions or not taking medicines
  • Not having a strong support system

If your transplant team thinks you are not yet ready for transplant, talk to them about what you can do to become ready.