Center for Transplantation

Living After a Kidney Transplant

After your transplant, you will usually stay in the hospital for three to five days to recover. Your transplant team will carefully watch your recovery process during your stay in the hospital.

  1. Care after your transplant. After leaving the hospital, you will need to stay near the UMC Center for Transplantation for a few months, so your doctors can monitor your new kidney function and your recovery.

  2. Follow-up care. Your doctor will update your primary health care provider and nephrologist about your progress as well as give recommendations for your care at home. In addition, a certified transplant nurse coordinator will answer your questions and communicate with you and your primary health care provider for several months. You will have follow-up appointments at the Center for Transplantation on an annual basis or more frequently if necessary.

  3. Medications. You will need to take immunosuppressant medications for life, to keep your body from rejecting your kidney. Your transplant team will discuss your new medications in detail.

  4. Returning to wellness. The transplant team considers your return to wellness after your transplant a priority. You will be given specific guidelines to increase your activity through a supervised exercise plan and nutrition plan. Your transplant team will work with you, to help you make healthy lifestyle choices and achieve an optimal transplant outcome.

After your kidney transplant, your care team will work with you to make your recovery as comfortable as possible. You will have access to pharmacists, infectious disease specialists, social workers and your kidney transplant coordinator to answer questions and get direction on how to take care of your kidney after surgery. You will also learn to monitor your health so that you can avoid common transplant and transplant-related health issues.

The UMC Transplant Team knows that you want not only a successful transplant, but also a healthy, full life afterward. To make that possible, your transplant team works with you to ensure that you return to an active lifestyle once you have healed from your transplant surgery. Social workers, physical therapists and other transplant team members support you along your post-transplant journey of health.

Exercise after your kidney transplant

After your kidney transplant, you should make exercise a regular part of your life and should continue to improve your health and fitness.

Your treatment team may work with you to set up a routine exercise program to meet your needs. Immediately after your transplant, you should walk as much as you can tolerate. Refrain from lifting more than 5 to 7 pounds in the first four to six weeks after your transplant. Your doctor will recommend that you participate in 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking) everyday, for five days a week. Walking, bicycling, low-impact strength training or other activities may help you improve your health.

Exercising regularly helps you control your weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your physical functioning and increase your energy. However, if you feel dizzy or short of breath, or if you experience other symptoms while working out, you should stop exercising. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and treatment team before you begin exercising again.

Diet and nutrition after your kidney transplant

After your kidney transplant, you may need to adjust your diet to keep your kidney healthy and functioning well. You will have fewer dietary restrictions than you had, while receiving dialysis therapy. However, you still may need to make some diet changes after the transplant. Your nutrition specialist (dietitian) and other members of your treatment team will work with you to create a healthy-eating plan that meets your needs and complements your lifestyle.

Your medications may change your appetite. You may need to keep track of how many calories you consume or limit foods high in sugar and fat. Your dietitian will develop an eating plan for you that will include the number of calories you should eat each day to maintain a healthy weight.

Your dietitian also will provide you with several healthy-food options and ideas to use in your eating plan. Your dietitian's recommendations may include:

  • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Avoiding grapefruit and grapefruit juice due to its effect on a group of immunosuppression medications (calcineurin inhibitors)
  • Having enough fiber in your daily diet
  • Drinking low-fat milk or eating other low-fat dairy products, which is important to maintain optimal calcium and phosphorus levels
  • Eating lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Maintaining a low-salt and low-fat diet
  • Following food safety guidelines
  • Staying hydrated by drinking adequate water and other fluids each day

In addition, discuss with your transplant doctor if you are taking any over-the-counter medications, vitamins or herbal supplements. Also, notify the transplant physician before starting any new prescription medicines.