What happens immediately after the transplant surgery?
Following surgery, children are moved to a recovery room for a few hours before moving to their room in the Intensive Care Unit. Depending on the transplant center, parents may be able to join their child in the recovery room. Otherwise, parents can meet their child in the ICU. Visiting rules also vary, but immediate family are generally allowed access to the patient in small numbers just hours after the surgery. The length of time spent in the ICU will also vary, depending on the center and situation for that particular child. As with any surgery, it may take some time for the child to be clear and able to communicate and certainly pain medications will already be started so there should not be any immediate issues with comfort.
How long do children stay in the hospital after a transplant?
Typically, children remain in the hospital for about one week after a kidney transplant. Some children require more time to recover.
What happens during the hospital stay?
While hospitalized, the child will have a central line catheter in place for blood work and administering certain medications. If the child was on hemodilaysis before the transplantation, the hemodialysis catheter will be used for that purpose. A urinary catheter will also be in place for about five days. Daily blood tests will also be required. (The first two days after the transplant, blood tests may be necessary several times a day.) During recovery, as the discomfort around the incision lessens, the child can move around more and gradually return to normal activities.
In most cases, the child can get out of bed and take short walks the day after surgery. Pain medications will change once the child is past the immediate recovery stage and will be closely watched to ensure the child does not have to endure too much discomfort. Water and then food are slowly introduced. Nurses will assist the child with daily walking and deep breathing exercises, which are an important part of the recovery period. Different members of the transplant team will also help the child and family members learn more details about the medications needed to prevent the transplanted kidney from rejection. Some children may require dialysis after the transplant until the new kidney functions properly. This is more common with deceased donor kidneys than with living kidneys.