Kidney Transplantation Recovery

About 90 percent of all transplanted kidneys still function one year after a transplant. We will provide you with the Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s most recent results from Northwestern Memorial Hospital as listed in the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). You also can go to the SRTR website* to view results from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as from all other transplant centers in the United States. This database is updated every six months.

Complications of kidney transplantation

Complications of kidney transplantation can occur early (in the first three months after your transplant) or later (beyond the three-month post-transplant period).:

Early complications can include:

  • Primary non-function (the kidney never works)
  • Delayed kidney function (the kidney doesn’t work right away)
  • Bleeding that requires surgery
  • Clotting of major blood vessels to the kidney
  • Rejection
  • Infections

Late complications can include:

  • Rejection
  • Infections
  • Recurrent disease
  • Kidney disease and other side-effects of anti-rejection medications
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

About rejection

Types of rejection may include: 

Acute rejection

You may experience at least one acute rejection episode in the first year after surgery. The immune system plays a role in acute organ rejection. White blood cells in your body recognize what is part of the body and what is not. These cells protect the body from foreign invaders. When you receive a donor kidney, your white blood cells will attempt to attack the donor kidney and destroy it.

You will take anti-rejection medication to help prevent chronic rejection, as well as additional medication to treat acute rejection. Most of the time, acute rejection does not cause any outward symptoms, so it is necessary to monitor you using kidney biopsies.

Chronic rejection

Chronic rejection is fairly common and usually occurs more than one year after surgery. Eating a low-fat diet, exercising, taking anti-rejection medicines, aspirin and other medications as prescribed may help reduce the risk of developing severe chronic rejection.


Kidney transplantation patients have increased risk for infection because of the anti-rejection medicines they must take. Anti-rejection medicines decrease your immune system's ability to fight an infection, so we teach you the symptoms of infection so you can identify an infection early, notify your physician and receive appropriate treatment.

Medications after kidney transplantation

The most important medications you will take after kidney transplantation are anti-rejection medications. For a few months after kidney transplantation, your physician may reduce the amount of anti-rejection medications you take to reduce the risk of infection.

New medical treatments and clinical trials

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is an academic medical committed to discovering new treatments. New medical treatments and clinical trials include:

Immune Tolerance

The Kovler Organ Transplantation Center Kidney Transplant team is currently enrolling patients into two clinical trials of cell-based therapies designed to wean kidney recipients off all immunosuppression. These exciting and novel approaches are available to all patients with a living donor who meet study criteria. We have presented our results at national and international meetings and have published them in high-impact journals. Northwestern Memorial Hospital has the only transplant center in the country currently offering these leading-edge treatments to kidney transplant recipients.

Peripheral Blood Proteogenomics for Non-invasive Diagnosis of Acute Rejection and Chronic Allograft Nephropathy

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is involved in ongoing research to find better and less invasive ways to diagnose and predict problems with the kidney transplant. Currently a kidney biopsy is the most reliable way to monitor for these problems, but it has risks to the patient and costs to the healthcare system.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is developing proteogenomic diagnostics in the blood and urine to accurately diagnose and predict these conditions, eliminating the need for kidney biopsies. Several studies at the Kovler Organ Transplantation Center offer conversion to calcineurin-inhibitor-free immunosuppression in a prednisone-free immunosuppression regimen. The primary purposes of these studies are to better preserve long-term kidney function and improve the quality of life.

Related Resources



  • American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)*: AAKP exists to serve the needs and interests of all kidney patients and their families by helping them deal with the emotional and social impact of kidney disease.
  • American Kidney Fund*: The fund provides direct financial assistance to kidney patients in need and education for those with and at risk for kidney disease.
  • Atlas of Diseases of the Kidney*: The online edition from ISN Informatics Commission and NKF Cyber-Nephrology provides information on kidney disease, treatment and research, including books and PowerPoint presentations.
  • Coalition on Donation*: The organization promotes organ donation and provides education about it.
  • Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network*: Website of the not-for-profit organ procurement organization that works with hospitals and donor families in the northern three-fourths of Illinois and northwest Indiana. The organization is responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue for medical transplantation in the service area, as well as for professional and public education on organ and tissue donation.
  • Home Dialysis Central*: This website is dedicated to educating kidney patients about home dialysis.
  • Kidney School*: This interactive, web-based learning program is designed to help people learn about kidney disease and its treatments, so they can take a more active role in their care.
  • Life Options*: This program of research, research-based education and outreach helps people live long and well with kidney disease.
  • MedlinePlus*: This is a trusted source that covers all aspects of organ donation and provides easy access to medical journal articles, extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials and the latest health news.
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases*: Part of the National Institutes of Health, this organization is involved in kidney disease research and treatment options.
  • National Kidney Foundation (NKF)*: This is the main foundation with 50 affiliates dedicated to providing prevention programs, educational services and materials for kidney patients, transplant recipients, communities and funding for research. NKF Affiliates: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
  • National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative*: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is undertaking this initiative to ease the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors by building a national community of organ sharing.
  • Nephron Information Center*: This site covers all aspects of kidney disease with many links to other sites.
  • Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)*: OPTN is a unique public-private partnership that links all of the professionals involved in the donation and transplantation system. Its goals are to increase the supply of donated organs available for transplantation and the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation (PKD)*: PKD Foundation’s mission is to promote research to find a cure for PKD and improve the care and treatment of those it affects.
  • The Renal Network 9/10*: This network facilitates the achievement of optimal wellness for renal disease patients.
  • Renal WEB*: Vortex website of the dialysis world offers patient education and the latest information and news for kidney disease professionals regarding treatment of kidney disease.
  • Transplant Living*: This is the United Network for Organ Sharing patient education site for all transplant patients.
  • TransWeb*: TransWeb's mission is to provide information about donation and transplantation to the general public to promote organ donation and to provide transplant families with information dealing specifically with transplant issues.
  • United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)*: Through the UNOS Organ Center, organ donors are matched to waiting recipients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through its policies, UNOS ensures that all patients have a fair chance at receiving the organ they need—regardless of age, sex, race, lifestyle, religion, or financial or social status. UNOS members include every transplant program, organ procurement organization and tissue typing laboratory in the United States.
  • U.S. Transplant—Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR)*: The SRTR supports the ongoing evaluation of the scientific and clinical status of solid organ transplantation in the United States.
  • Worldwide Kidney Disease Community*: This online resource brings together people with kidney disease, in a worldwide community dedicated to improving patient quality of life.

Support groups

The following associations have support groups available to help patients and their families through a transplantation:

Legal Information

By clicking on these websites, you are leaving the Northwestern Medicine website. These websites are independent resources. Northwestern Medicine does not operate or control the content of these websites. By visiting these websites, you agree to this third party’s terms of use for their website.