Though kidney transplants are often successful, there are some cases when they are not. It is possible that your body may refuse to accept the donated kidney shortly after it is placed in your body. It is also possible your new kidney may stop working overtime.

Having a new kidney is a major change for your body.  Your immune system , which protects your body from germs and harmful cells, recognizes your new kidney as a foreign tissue, and may try to reject it.  To help prevent your new kidney from being rejected, your doctor will give you immunosuppressants, which are medicines that decrease your immune response so your body is less likely to reject your new kidney. Immunosuppressants are also sometimes called anti-rejection medicines.

Types of kidney rejection that may happen after your transplant.

  • Acute rejection will usually happen within the first three to six months after your kidney transplant. Many kidney transplant patients have some acute rejection episodes, which means their body shows signs that it is fighting the new kidney. Less than 1 in 20 transplant patients have an acute rejection episode that leads to complete failure of their new kidney.
  • Chronic rejection happens more often and occurs slowly over the years after your kidney transplant. Over time, your new kidney may stop working because your immune system will constantly fight it.

If you are told by your doctor or healthcare team that you are having a rejection incident or episode, it does not mean your new kidney is not working or your new kidney will be completely rejected.  Changing the amount of your immunosuppressant medicine can usually treat this problem. This is why it is so important to take your immunosuppressant medicine exactly the way your doctor tells you.

Signs and symptoms of kidney rejection

  • Feeling like you have the flu: body aches, chills, headache and more
  • Fever of 101° F or higher
  • Urinating less than usual
  • Very high blood pressure
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Ankle swelling
  • Pain or tenderness over the area where your transplant was done
  • Feeling very tired

If you notice that you suddenly are not feeling well, contact your doctor or transplant team right away.