Kidney transplantation saves lives, but only if the new organs continue to work

April 12, 2017

New guidelines are aimed at reducing rejection and improving the health of recipients

It once was pretty unusual to encounter someone with a transplanted kidney. Not anymore. Last year, more than 19,000 kidney transplants were performed across the country — a number that has grown in each of the last four years.

That means a greater chance that community physicians without special training in transplant medicine might find themselves providing care for one or more of these patients.

But while kidney transplants are more common, managing the care of transplant patients remains just as complex. Patients take a number of medications and follow dietary advice to avoid rejection of their new kidney. That care becomes even more complicated if patients have other medical conditions requiring treatment that might interfere with their transplant recovery.

University Transplant Center, a partnership of University Health System and UT Health San Antonio, has begun publishing easy-to-follow guidelines for the treatment of adult kidney transplant patients. The guidelines are aimed at making the complex care of these patients more standardized and understandable both for its team, as well the doctors who take care of patients after they’ve completed several months of follow-up visits with the transplant staff.

University Transplant Center’s kidney transplant program has the best outcomes in South Texas, and among the best in Texas. Only three of the 19 programs in Texas have a better one-year survival rate.

“These are very user-friendly protocols,” said Dr. Suverta Bhayana, a nephrologist with University Transplant Center, who co-wrote the new guidelines. “So if you have a patient with a kidney transplant and high blood pressure, it tells you how to manage their pressure differently from somebody else. Or if they have diabetes, management might be a little different in a transplant population.”

The guidelines, co-written by nephrologist Dr. Rupal Patel, will be reviewed and updated every six months to make sure they include the most recent research findings and expert consensus.

The outcomes of patients who receive kidney transplants across the nation are updated and publicly reported every six months by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, ensuring patients in need of transplantation can make informed decisions when selecting a transplant center.