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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Division of Transplantation

General Overview

The kidneys are bean shaped organs that sit in the lower back. Most people have two kidneys which help clear the bloodstream of waste products or toxins while maintaining the proper balance of fluid in the body through the production of urine.

There are many reasons why kidneys fail. Most often, kidney failure is the result of long standing disease. Kidney disease generally affects both kidneys equally and the second kidney does not compensate for failure of the first. For this reason, many people live long and healthy lives with one kidney while those with kidney failure lose function in both kidneys simultaneously. Therefore, all kidney donors are carefully screened for potential kidney disease. If there is any risk to the health of the donor he or she will not be considered for organ donation.

When the kidneys fail, the body is unable to excrete toxins adequately. Some people with kidney failure continue to produce urine, but it is inefficient and cannot clear waste products from the body. These waste products can only be eliminated through dialysis. Unfortunately, even the best dialysis cannot substitute for a well functioning kidney.

Today there are several treatment choices for people with kidney failure, but no treatment offers more promise than transplantation. A successful kidney transplant recipient leads a full life, with freedom from dialysis treatments, diet and fluid restrictions and frequent medical care.

Receiving a kidney transplant from a living donor is by far the best option for the recipient, but the health and long term outlook for the donor are of primary consideration during the living donation evaluation process.