Why You May Need a Kidney Transplant

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine behind the upper abdominal organs. About one fourth of the blood volume pumped during each heartbeat goes to the kidneys. This adds up to about 160 quarts of blood every 24 hours. From this, about 1½ quarts of urine are eliminated through the bladder. The kidneys filter the blood using tiny components called nephrons and glomeruli.

The kidneys perform several critical functions, including:

• Filtering the blood of waste products that can become toxic if left to accumulate
• Removing excess fluid that can accumulate around the heart and lungs
• Returning nutrients to the bloodstream
• Producing a substance that helps regulate blood pressure
• Producing a substance necessary for red blood cell creation, thus preventing anemia

The Failing Kidney

Some of the most common causes of kidney failure include:

• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Diabetes mellitus
• Kidney stones
• Inherited kidney disease
• Inflammatory disease of the nephrons and glomeruli
• Side effects of drug therapy for other diseases

When your kidneys fail to remove waste products from the blood, a condition known as uremia develops. Since you normally have more kidney functioning ability than you need, most people do not develop symptoms of kidney failure until 90 percent of kidney function is lost. Once this occurs, the work of your kidneys must be done by dialysis (an artificial means of filtering the blood) or function must be replaced by transplantation. One main advantage of transplantation over dialysis is quality of life. Many people prefer transplantation because they are able to return to a more normal lifestyle.