Last year more than 33,000 patients received transplants. Many of those were kidney transplants. Before getting a kidney transplant, many patients live on dialysis for years.
Dr. Gautham Mogilishetty, a kidney transplant surgeon with Lee Health, says dialysis can prolong life expectancy. “Dialysis is an artificial means of providing kidney function. The closest amount of kidney function that you can provide with dialysis is about 15 to 20 percent.”
The average life expectancy on dialysis is five years. If patients get a kidney transplant their life expectancy triples. “Transplantation is not only a cure for kidney disease but it gives back some of your life expectancy,” said Dr. Mogilishetty.
While dialysis is not a cure, doctors say it’s a bridge that buys the patient time until they can have a kidney transplant. For patients who can’t receive a transplant, it’s the only way to provide them more time. “You will die if you don’t get dialysis. But the amount of kidney function you get back is surprisingly very, very low compared to transplantation or your natural kidney,” said Dr. Mogilishetty.
If patients can have a kidney transplant doctors say timing is everything. “The goal is to transplant them early enough but not too early. The recommendation for kidney transplantation is when your kidney function has dropped to less than 20 percent, or if you’re on dialysis. If you’re on dialysis your kidney function is usually less than 15 percent or less than 10 percent,” said Dr. Mogilishetty.
Patients who are born with kidney disease or who develop it early in life may need multiple kidney transplants. “It’s the quality of life alone when you get a kidney transplantation, it’s the quantity of life,” said Dr. Mogilishetty.
Both treatments can give patients a chance to live a longer, healthier life.