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Your Kidney Transplant Journey Starts Here

Have you been diagnosed with kidney failure? Your diagnosis presents a challenge, but also the opportunity to return to a healthy life. This guide contains resources for you to consider transplant as the preferred treatment option for kidney failure.



A kidney transplant is often the best option for getting back to a healthy and productive life. The only other option, dialysis, takes a lot of time and may limit your ability to live an independent life.

People with kidney failure may seek a transplant at any point in their journey, but research shows that the sooner you receive a transplant, the better for your long-term health.

Man looking to the left

"For people who meet the requirements for kidney transplantation, it’s the best option for treatment."

Nephrologist, Cleveland, Ohio

Here are some resources on choosing transplant:

Women look to the right
Choosing Treatment Guide

A guide to your options for kidney failure treatment

National Kidney Foundation

Two kidneys
Transplant Guide

A guide to transplant, from benefits of transplant surgery to financial advice

National Kidney Foundation

Doctor speaking to a patient
FAQ for Treatment for Kidney Failure

Frequently asked patient questions about kidney failure treatment options

National Institutes of Health

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Contact Your ESRD Network

Call your local ESRD network for more questions about choosing transplant

The National Forum of ESRD Networks

Doctor using a stethoscope on a patient
What to Expect

What to expect before, during, and after a kidney transplant

Explore Transplant

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Get the Facts on Kidney Transplant

Learn the facts about kidney transplant and how it could impact your life

ESRD National Coordinating Center

Nurse talking to two people
Is Kidney Transplant Right for Me?

Your guide to the kidney transplant process

ESRD National Coordinating Center

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From Diagnosis to Treatment Choices

Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment choices available to you

American Association of Kidney Patients

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Ascent to Transplant Video

A video to learn about transplant through people’s unique journeys

Ascent to Transplant (Emory University)

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iChoose Kidney Tool

A tool that educates patients about the risk of available treatment options for kidney disease

Emory University

Get on a
Transplant Waitlist

The transplant process starts when you are referred to a local transplant center. Your nephrologist, primary care doctor, or dialysis center can refer you, or you can even call to refer yourself.

Next, you will be medically evaluated by a transplant team to make sure that you are a candidate for transplant. You will probably have to complete some extra medical tests.

During evaluation, the transplant center will also help you understand your insurance and pre-approvals for transplant.

If the transplant team determines that you are a candidate for transplant, and you complete all steps of the patient evaluation, you will be added to the waitlist and considered an active candidate for kidney transplant.

Patient looks up at a nurse
  1. Transplant wait times
  2. Distance from your home
  3. If they perform living donor transplants

There are two sources for kidneys for transplant:

  1. A living donor who donates one of their kidneys. Transplant surgeons recommend you try to find a living donor, because it helps you get a kidney sooner. Living donor kidneys also typically function longer in your body, 15-20 years on average.
  2. A deceased donor who has gifted their kidney to be donated after death. If you do not have a living donor, your transplant team will enter your information into the national kidney transplant waitlist. The average wait time to get a kidney is 3-5 years. Consenting to high-KDPI and increased-risk kidneys is one way to get a kidney sooner.

Get detailed information about each transplant center at

"Six months into dialysis, my kidney offer was a miracle I didn't see coming!"

Patient, Des Moines, Iowa

Here are some resources on transplant center waitlisting:

Evaluation for Kidney Transplant

More information on the transplant center evaluation

National Kidney Foundation

Two men talking
How to Make the Ask

Recommendations on how to ask your friends and family to be a living donor

National Kidney Foundation

Three blocks
How the Waitlist Works

Questions and answers about the kidney transplant waitlist

United Network for Organ Sharing

Hospital hallway
Selecting a Transplant Center

Things to consider when choosing the right transplant center

American Society of Transplantation

Sign that says Human Kidney for Transplant
Types of Kidney Transplants

Discusses the different kinds of kidney transplants and donor types

American Association of Kidney Patients

Patients sitting in the waiting room
Transplant Waitlisting

All about getting on a waitlist and waiting for your kidney

American Kidney Fund

Preparing Financially for Transplant

Details on how your transplant team will help create an individualized financial plan

United Network for Organ Sharing

Two men talking
Living Donor FAQs

Questions and answers about who can be a living donor and how the process works

American Society of Transplantation

Stay Healthy
on the Waitlist

You want to be healthy for surgery and ready at the moment you are offered a kidney.

Here are the important factors to maintain your health while on the waitlist:

  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Exercise according to your doctor’s recommendations
  • Regularly attend dialysis
  • Keep up with the screening tests and bloodwork your transplant center requires
  • Don’t use any tobacco products
  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Stay in touch with your transplant team and update them with any health or insurance changes
Man meditating

"Don’t wait for your ship to come in – swim out to meet it. I got myself healthy, got my transplant workup, and got on the list. I made it happen!"

Patient, Little Rock, Arkansas

Here are some resources on staying healthy on the waitlist:

Person tying their shoes
Staying Fit with Kidney Disease

Exercise tips to keep your body strong and healthy

National Kidney Foundation

Person cooking vegetables
Kidney-Friendly at Every Stage

Learn about eating for kidney health with recipes, videos, and guides

American Kidney Fund

Person writing in their notebook
Waiting for Your Transplant

How to prepare yourself for transplant while on the waitlist

United Network for Organ Sharing

A persons hands
Coping with Kidney Disease

Information and activities to support the mental health of patients with kidney disease

American Association of Kidney Patients

Receive a
Kidney Sooner

The wait for a deceased donor kidney is usually 3-5 years. However, there are a few ways to get a kidney sooner:

  • Multi-list at different transplant centers that are covered by a different organ procurement organization
  • Consider high-KDPI and increased-risk kidneys
  • Locate a living donor
A patient talking to a doctor

High-KDPI kidneys are predicted to have a shorter lifespan than other kidneys because of the donor’s age, medical history, and other health factors. Increased-risk kidneys come from donors who may have had additional health risks, like exposure to Hepatitis C. But for most patients these kidneys are a great way to get transplanted and off dialysis.

During your initial transplant evaluation, you will be asked to consent to receiving a high-KDPI or increased-risk kidney. You should consult with your transplant team to learn if high-KDPI or increased-risk kidneys are right for you. Most transplant centers recommend you consent, so you are open to even more kidney matches.

Give Feedback

  1. If you list at transplant centers in different areas, you will be considered for donor kidneys that become available in more than one local area. You can even consider listing at transplant centers far away from where you live, but only if you can get to the transplant center at a moment’s notice.
  2. Each transplant center has varying practices around how they choose the right kidney for their patients. Some centers accept many different types of kidneys and other centers are narrower about the kidneys they will transplant.

Remember, the sooner you get a kidney, the better for your long-term health!

Search for transplant centers

"Accepting the high-KDPI kidney gave me the chance to get a transplant within 4 months!"

Patient, Falls Church, Virgina

Here are some resources on getting a kidney sooner:

Buildings in the skyline
Multiple Listings

Explains why patients choose to multi-list and how to multi-list

National Kidney Foundation

Signature on a paper
How Could I Get a Transplant Sooner?

Describes why consenting to high-KDPI and increased-risk kidneys is the right choice for many people

United Network for Organ Sharing

Two people looking at a computer screen
Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) Awareness

Check out an OPO map to see which area your kidney is likely to come from

Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients

Finding a Transplant Center

Get instructions on how to locate and contact a transplant center near you

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)

Connect with the Community

As you prepare for transplant, remember you are not alone in this journey. There are many people out there willing to share their experiences with you and guide you through the kidney transplant process.

Two women sitting on a bench laughing

"I know what it’s like at a young age to struggle with kidney disease. Today, I share my kidney story and help motivate others going through ESRD."

Patient, Baltimore, Maryland

Here are some resources for connecting with your community

Enjoy Life After Transplant

Once you've received your transplant, you can enjoy many of your favorite activities again. Another way that transplant recipients find joy is in helping patients who are considering transplant.

Woman smiling at the sky

"After my transplant, my husband and I are back to being active, traveling, and living a life full of adventure. I just celebrated my one-year transplant anniversary and my 50th wedding anniversary. Now, I'm looking forward to our first vacation after surgery!"

Patient, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Here are some resources on giving back to your community:

A nurse helping a patient
Volunteer Opportunities
  • Read about volunteer opportunities through the American Kidney Fund

    American Kidney Fund

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Community Events

Find kidney community events near you

National Kidney Foundation

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Peer Mentoring
  • Learn about peer mentoring opportunities

    ESRD National Coordinating Center

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Advocacy Resources

Become a patient advocate with the National Kidney Foundation

National Kidney Foundation

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Copyright © 2020

This material was prepared by the End Stage Renal Disease National Coordinating Center (ESRD National Coordinating Center) contractor, under contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The contents presented do not necessarily reflect CMS policy nor imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

This site contains information gathered from trusted organizations in the kidney care community. This information does not constitute medical advice and is for informational purposes only.