About the Program
A pioneer in organ transplant since 1963, the Kidney Transplant Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplant Center employs leading-edge medical and surgical technology to provide individualized care for patients with chronic kidney disease. Our expert surgeons have performed more than 3,000 kidney transplants and have achieved some of the best graft and patient survival rates in the country. In 2017, 40% of patients receiving kidney transplants at Mass General never needed a single dialysis treatment prior to transplant, which is more than twice the national average.
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Kidney transplant patients typically require lifelong immunosuppressive medications to prevent their immune systems from attacking the new organ. However, our ground-breaking research is allowing some patients to live drug-free after transplant. We also offer options for highly sensitized patients, patients with incompatible living donors and patients with challenging medical or surgical issues.
Leadership in Kidney Transplantation
We have consistently led the field in tolerance or the acceptance of transplanted organs without long-term immunosuppression. We performed the first successful tolerance induction for renal allografts in patients with multiple myeloma in 1998. We initiated the first ITN-sponsored clinical tolerance trials for adults in 2001 and performed the first successful tolerance induction in mismatched renal transplant recipients in 2008.
Advanced Evaluation, Multidisciplinary Care
All our patients receive integrated, comprehensive care to treat chronic renal failure, beginning with a careful assessment and discussion with the patient to ensure that transplantation is his/her best treatment option. Candidates work with a transplant coordinator, who participates in the initial evaluation, gathers medical information and previous test results. The transplant coordinator also manages the patient’s full evaluation, which includes:
- Patient education
- Surgical and psychosocial evaluation
- Transplant-specific testing
To begin the kidney transplant process, you must first be referred to the Mass General Kidney Transplant Clinic by your primary care physician or nephrologist. A kidney transplant nurse coordinator along with a transplant nephrologist will review your referral and medical records once they have been received. Transplant Center staff will then schedule an initial evaluation appointment. If you are also a candidate for pancreas transplantation, you will be evaluated for both transplants at the same time.
Depending on the number of tests required for each patient, the length of the evaluation process can vary, but our goal is to complete all testing within four months. The Mass General Kidney Transplant Program also conducts a monthly evaluation clinic at four locations throughout New England. Please ask your patient service coordinator for more information on scheduling an appointment at one of these convenient locations.
The Evaluation Process
Part One: Initial Evaluation
You will begin the kidney transplant evaluation at the scheduled Multidisciplinary Kidney Transplant Evaluation Clinic held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. During the day you will:
- Attend a kidney transplant education session
- Have blood testing done
- Meet with all the members of the transplant team, including your individual nurse coordinator, nephrologist, surgeon, social worker, dietitian and financial coordinator
Part Two: Specialized Testing
After the initial clinic visit you will return for additional testing and appointments as needed. The kidney transplant team will assist you in scheduling these tests and appointments, which may include:
- Cardiac stress testing
- Chest X-ray and electrocardiogram (EKG) at a Mass General facility
- Additional blood and urine tests
- CT scan
- Meeting with a pharmacist
- Meeting with a psychiatrist
You will be responsible for scheduling the following tests with your primary care physician and/or providing recent results in order to complete the transplant evaluation:
- Colonoscopy (age 50+)
- Dental exam (within the past year)
- Mammogram (age 40+)
- Pap smear
Kidney transplant candidates are placed on the national United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list, which manages the distribution of organs nationwide.
Part Three: Review by Committee
Once testing is complete, the entire transplant team will meet to determine your candidacy to be listed for a kidney transplant. You and your referring physician and dialysis center, if applicable, will be informed of the committee’s decision.
Prior to your transplant evaluation, please download and complete the evaluation consent form. You can submit your completed form to your transplant care team via Patient Gateway.
Download the evaluation consent form
Waiting List for Kidney Transplantation
If you are found to be a good candidate for kidney transplantation, the best option is to undergo transplant with a living donor, as this does not require time on the waiting list. Patients without a living donor wait on the list for a deceased donor kidney. Because there are many more people who need a kidney transplant than there are kidneys available, a waiting list is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS gives priority to patients based on waiting time and over a time period of years patients move to the top of the list, and receive a kidney.
When a deceased donor organ is available, you will receive a call from our coordinator or surgeon, asking you to come into the hospital for the transplant. Since this call can come at any time during the day or night, any day of the week, it is important for the transplant team to be able to reach you. You should provide our center with all of your phone numbers, as well as the phone numbers of a few emergency contacts, so that we can contact you when needed.
Transplantation for Incompatible Donor-Recipient Pairs
Mass General is a leader in transplanting patients whose live donor is incompatible with them, either because of blood group or anti-HLA antibodies. We offer:
- Desensitization therapy — Antibodies are removed from the recipient in advance of transplantation. Mass General has performed dozens of these procedures over the last 10-15 years. The success of this approach was recently described in a New England Journal of Medicine article
- Paired Kidney Exchange — Through the UNOS Paired Kidney Exchange Program. these transplants are sometimes called swap programs, in which a recipient’s incompatible donor donates to someone else (often in another city), while their recipient receives a kidney from another, compatible donor
Living Donor Program
Donating a kidney to another individual is an act of great kindness. Nearly half of the kidneys transplanted at Mass General are given by living donors
— family members, friends, co-workers and donors who are unknown to the recipient.
Become a living donor
How to Find a Living Kidney Donor
The Mass General living donor team hosts an ongoing virtual education series called “How to Find a Living Kidney Donor,” that aims to equip kidney recipients and their loved ones with the necessary knowledge, support and tools to find a living donor. The dates alternate on the fourth Monday and Thursday of every month.
Register for an upcoming event
High Kidney Transplant Volumes
Mass General performs significantly more kidney transplants than other Massachusetts institutions. Higher volumes mean more experience.
Our high volume of kidney transplants — and skilled team of kidney transplant surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and social workers who guide patients through every stage of care — help us to attain excellent results in treating patients who need a kidney transplant.
Data Source: United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
Data Period: January 2019-December 2020