Health Library
Kidney Transplant, After Surgery

What should I expect after a kidney transplant?

When your child wakes up from anesthesia following the kidney transplant operation, they will be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Cincinnati Children's. You will be able to stay with your child (even overnight) throughout your child's stay here.

Your child will remain in the ICU for several days so they can be closely monitored. Your child's throat may feel sore or scratchy for a few days. This is from the tube that was placed in the airway to help your child breathe during the surgery.

Your child will feel some pain and perhaps some nausea after surgery, but they will be given medications to help control these problems.

Your child will also wake up with an intravenous line (IV) in their arm and a bigger line near the collar bone or in the neck. These lines are used to give your child fluids and medications the first few days after surgery and to monitor their health status closely by obtaining blood samples frequently without a needle stick each time.

Your child will also have a catheter in their bladder to help pass urine. This may be uncomfortable but will be removed a few days before they go home.

Some patients report feeling better immediately after their transplant surgery than they did before, while others may require more time. After the transplant, your child will be taking many new medications to keep them and the new kidney healthy. The transplant nurse coordinator will teach you and your child about these medications before you leave the hospital.

The average length of hospitalization is about a week, but may vary slightly depending on your child's individual needs.

Going Home / Follow-Up

Although it is exciting to go home from the hospital after the kidney transplant, most children are also nervous about it. It takes some time for your child to get used to their new kidney and all the new medications they are taking.

Don’t worry. You’ll be able to reach someone at Cincinnati Children’s 24 hours a day if you have questions or concerns. You will be able to call the transplant coordinator during the weekdays or the kidney doctor who is on-call every night and weekend. Don’t ever feel that your question is unimportant.

We want to make sure you are comfortable knowing what to do to take care of your child and that your questions and concerns are addressed.

For the first several months after the transplant, your child will return to the hospital for clinic visits several times a week. Your child will have blood tests and be examined at each visit so that the transplant team can check kidney function, adjust medications and detect complications.

Over time, the frequency of the clinic visits will decrease, but it is important for you to understand that your child will always need regular follow-ups with the kidney doctor to check the transplant function.

First Four to Six Weeks after Kidney Transplant

For the first four to six weeks after the kidney transplant, the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program team makes the following recommendations:

  • Wear a mask when coming in and out of the hospital and while in any waiting area. This is to protect your child from the germs of others in the building.
  • Do not send your child to school or day care. This is the time that transplant recipients are most at risk for infection.
  • Avoid crowded indoor places, such as movie theaters, malls or restaurants.
  • Avoid being around people with an obviously contagious illness.
  • Good hand washing is always important, but the family needs to be extra careful during this time. Wash your hands often.

Discharge / Clinic Information

During the first few weeks following the kidney transplant, the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program team will probably make many medication changes.

It is good for you to know exactly what your child is taking. Bring the pill bottles with you to the clinic if you have questions. Also, bring your child’s medication record to each visit.

If you have questions or concerns, call the Nephrology Division:

Remember: No question or symptom is silly. We want to hear from you even if it seems trivial or insignificant. We care about your child and want the best recovery possible.

Once you have been discharged from the hospital, your child will need to be seen in the clinic at least three times a week for the first several weeks. The Nephrology Clinic is on the first floor of Location A.

  • Your child may take all of their medications prior to coming to the clinic except their anti-rejection medicine. Bring this medicine with you to take after your child’s blood is drawn.
  • Every time you come to the clinic you will need to stop at the Test Referral Center (TRC) first to have your child’s blood drawn. The center is on the first floor of Location A. If you have a hemodialysis catheter, central venous line or port, your labs will be drawn in the clinic.
  • Your child’s blood needs to be drawn in the morning within 30-60 minutes of their anti-rejection medication dose time so that we can get the results back the same day.

Last Updated 04/2024

Reviewed By Mary Ann Seigel, RN II