Kidney transplantation is considered an alternative long-term solution to regular dialysis treatment. Successful transplants will give greater independence and better quality of life. In Australia kidney transplant surgery is a relatively common procedure. In 2013 over 880 kidney transplants were carried out – the most ever performed in a single year.

50 years of kidney transplants
Professor Coates says the willingness of patients to embrace new techniques and new technologies in transplantation has facilitated the worldwide advance of transplant medicine.

A kidney transplant involves taking a healthy ‘donated’ kidney and placing it in your body to replace your failed kidneys. There are two types of kidney transplants – both require life long medication to suppress your immune system to prevent the body rejecting the new kidney.

A deceased donor transplant comes from an unrelated donor who has indicated they would like to be an organ donor after they die.

A living donor transplant can come from a family member, partner or close friend who is willing to donate a kidney. The healthy kidney is removed via key-hole surgery and implanted in to the patient on the same day. The donor is able to live normally with one kidney.

The first successful living kidney transplant was performed in South Australia at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1965. Since that time both the surgery and the clinical care has been transformed. In 1965 there were two drugs available to prevent organ rejection, now there are over 10 that each target different aspects of the immune systems’ functioning and together with better understanding of tissue compatibility, transplant options have been opened up for thousands of Australians and patients worldwide.

Kidney transplant outcomes improve each year as surgical care and new therapies are developed through continued medical research. Currently, 95% of kidney transplants from living donors are functioning after 12 months and are expected to function for at least 20 years. Deceased donor transplants last at least 16 years on average with this figure improving each and every year.

Medical Research and Kidney Transplantation

The first successful living kidney transplant in Australia was performed in 1965 at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in South Australia. Since that time both the surgery and the clinical care has been transformed. In 1965 there were two drugs available to prevent organ rejection, now there are over 10 that each target different aspects of the immune systems’ functioning and together with better understanding of tissue compatibility, transplant options have been opened up for thousands of Australians and patients worldwide.

Medical research has been instrumental in advancing kidney transplants between people who are neither tissue nor blood group compatible. In 2005 an experimental desensitising program at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital was established to cleanse the blood of harmful antibodies which enabled five patients who had waited a total of 100 years of dialysis, to undergo kidney transplantation. The success of this program has given many previously ‘un-translatable’ patients around Australia the gift of a normal life with restored kidney function.

In an Australian first, Adelaide based mother Shaila Kabir gave birth to her baby girl in 2012 after receiving a blood group incompatible kidney transplant from her husband. You can read her remarkable story here. 

For more information on current kidney transplantation research please visit our research page.

For more information about organ and tissue donation or how you can become a donor please go to http://www.donatelife.gov.au