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Renal Transplant

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If you've been told your child will need a renal, or kidney, transplant, just thinking about the months ahead may fill you with dread and worry. Fortunately, for complicated renal illnesses and surgeries, there's Cook Children's Renal Transplant program, one of only a few certified pediatric transplant centers in Texas.

What is a kidney transplant?

Kidneys are vital to a person's survival because they filter waste, as well as extra fluid and salt, from the body. If the kidneys fail (stop working), a person will need to go on dialysis or get a kidney transplant.

A kidney transplant is an operation where doctors put a new kidney in the body of someone whose own kidneys no longer work properly. One healthy kidney can do the work of two failed kidneys.

Because people can survive with just one kidney, a living person can give one of his or her healthy kidneys to someone with kidney failure. A kidney can also come from an organ donor who is recently deceased.

Dr. Gillespie with patient

Uniting to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of kidney disease in kids

Dr. Robert S. Gillespie Medical Director, Nephrology and Kidney Transplantation, and Dr. Blake W. Palmer, Medical Director, Urology Cook Children's Medical Center, join together in a discussion about the unique challenges of kidney transplant in children and how Cook Children’s nephrology and urology programs partner to achieve the best possible results.

Pediatric Renal Transplant: A Unique View

For over 25 years, Cook Children's has been providing lifesaving kidney transplants to children of all ages – including babies as young as one year old who meet weight criteria. We typically perform eight to 12 transplants per year, and our patient and graft survival rates consistently meet or exceed national averages. Outcomes include:

  • Within 30 days of listing, 15.4% received a transplant vs. 2.4% nationally. Within 1 year of listing, 65.4% received a transplant vs. 12.2% nationally.
  • Among the 20 patients who received transplants at Cook Children's between June 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018 (the most recent data available), 95 percent are still have a functioning kidney.

What causes kidney failure?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney failure in adults. But in children and teens, it's usually the result of:

  • Genetic diseases. Conditions that run in the family can affect the kidneys. One example is polycystic kidney disease, in which normal kidney tissue is replaced by fluid-filled sacs.
  • Glomerular diseases. These conditions damage the tiny filtering units in the kidneys (called glomeruli).
  • Birth defects. Defects of the kidneys or urinary tract can prevent the kidneys from working normally.

Your transplant team

At Cook Children's, your child will be supported by an incredibly talented medical team. Your child's team includes specialty doctors from Cook Children's nephrology, urology and infectious disease centers, as well as transplant nurses, social workers, dietitians, Child Life specialists and pharmacists.

The same multidisciplinary team of clinicians cares for children from the moment they start dialysis until they receive their new kidney. This allows us to develop strong relationships with our patients and their families, and to closely monitor diet, medications and other factors that may impact readiness for transplant.

Your child will be evaluated for transplant suitability and readiness by the multidisciplinary team. Our team has had much success with more complex conditions such as high risk transplant, complicated surgical history, repeat transplants, transplants of children who have had complex bladder reconstruction, bloodless transplants for religious reasons, and assisting families living far from our transplant center.

After transplant, we carefully monitor our patients to make sure their new kidney is functioning. While we use standard immunosuppressive medications to prevent rejection, we taper doses quickly to minimize the risks associated with long-term steroid use in children.

To ensure that you're fully prepared for your child's care after the transplant, we also provide family support. Our kidney transplant coordinators educate parents, caregivers and siblings to help make the transition from surgery to recovery as easy as possible. And support continues long after surgery.

From regular checkups to monitor your child's new kidney function, to questions or concerns about medications and activities, we're here to help you through the process every inch of the way.

Living Donation

Living donation is a wonderful way to ensure your child has the best opportunity for success after transplant. Cook Children’s has always had a special relationship with Texas Health Harris Fort Worth. We have now partnered with their Transplant Program to evaluate and recover all living donor kidneys. If there is a living donor opportunity for your child, you will be provided with information regarding the process once your child has been approved and listed with United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

We're here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices.

Call 682-885-2871