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 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)
  • Incisional hernia requiring surgery

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.

Related Resources



  • American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP): AAKP helps kidney patients and their families manage the emotional and social impact of kidney disease.
  • American Kidney Fund: This 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 DonationThis organization promotes and provides education about organ donation.
  • Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network: This nonprofit works with hospitals and donor families in the northern three‐fourths of Illinois and northwest Indiana. It focuses on 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: Home Dialysis Central educates 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 OptionsThis 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 foundation has 50 affiliates dedicated to providing prevention programs, educational services, and materials for kidney patients, transplant recipients, and communities. NKF Affiliates: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
  • National Organ and Tissue Donation InitiativeThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is building a national community of organ sharing to ease the critical shortage of organ and tissue donors.
  • Nephron Information Center: This site includes information and educational links about kidney disease.
  • 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 empowers optimal wellness for renal disease patients. 
  • Transplant Living: This is the United Network for Organ Sharing patient education site for all transplant patients.
  • TransWeb: TransWeb’s mission is to offer information about donation and transplantation to the general public. It promotes organ donation and provides transplant families with information specifically about 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 CommunityThis online resource brings together people with kidney disease, in a worldwide community dedicated to improving patient quality of life.

Support groups

The following associations offer support groups to help patients and their families through transplantation: