Transplant Recovery

After your transplant operation, our team will monitor your progress closely to make sure your new organ is working. Your recovery includes your hospital stay and lifelong follow-up care after your discharge. 

On average, hospital stay is 3-5 days after a kidney transplant and for 7-10 days for a combined kidney/pancreas transplant.

Recovery in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Fletcher Allen

Our Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) is located in the McClure Building, Level 3. On average hospital stay is 24-48 hours after surgery, then you will be transferred to the Baird Building on Level 6. We will monitor you carefully in the SICU. You can expect that your: 

  • Vital signs will be taken frequently (blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature)
  • Urine output will be measured hourly
  • Blood work will be checked several times a day
  • Nurses will continue to give you intravenous (IV) fluids until you can eat and drink
  • While awake, you will need to turn in bed, cough, and take deep breaths at least every 1-2 hours 
  • You will be given an inspirometer, a breathing device, to help gauge your progress

Walking, coughing, and deep breathing are crucial parts of your post-operative care.  You will be less likely to develop complications such as pneumonia, constipation, or blood clots in your legs. 

Bowel Function after Transplant Surgery

Due to the effects of the anesthesia and the manipulation of your intestines during surgery, the normal action of your intestines slows.  You will be encouraged to walk as early as possible after surgery to help bowel function return to normal.  Bowel sounds will return and you will begin to pass gas.  When bowel function returns, you can begin to advance your diet slowly.

Pain Management after Transplant Surgery

At first, you will have a pump that delivers medicine into your IV whenever you need it.  This is called a PCA (patient-controlled analgesia).  After 24 to 48 hours, you will switch to pain pills.  It is important to take your pain medicine so that you can cough, deep breathe and walk.  You will go home with a prescription for pain medicine.

Preparing to Go Home After Surgery

It will be your responsibility to learn how to take care of yourself and your new organ. Taking charge of your own health is crucial to the success of your transplant surgery. Before you leave the hospital, you will learn how to:

  • Care for and clean your incision, which will be covered with a dressing at first
  • Monitor your own blood pressure, temperature and daily weight
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of organ rejection
  • Know your immunosuppressant medication routine, which includes being aware of the names of the medications, the strength of each pill, the doses and side effects

Read more about life after transplant surgery.

Kidney Function after Transplant Surgery

The transplanted kidney usually begins working immediately, although it is not unusual for kidney function to be delayed for days or even weeks. When that happens, some individuals resume dialysis treatments until their new kidney “wakes up” and is functioning at an adequate level.  A small number of kidneys (less than 1%) may never work.