Kidney transplant program in San Antonio, Texas

Methodist Healthcare has performed more than 4,700 kidney transplants, making our program one of the nation’s top transplant programs. We lead the country in live kidney donor operations with over 2,500 total operations performed to date and are the preferred location for live donor transplants in the U.S. since 2009.

To make an appointment or to refer a patient, call our Kidney Transplant Clinic at (210) 575-8425.

The Kidney Transplant Clinic was the first transplant center in Texas to perform simultaneous two-way and three-way paired kidney exchange transplants. Our program also consistently ranks among the nation’s top transplant centers in one-year survival rates.

Superior kidney transplant services

Methodist Transplant Services proudly offers the most robust kidney transplant program that San Antonio and the state of Texas have to offer. Patients choose us for:

  • The most live donor transplants in the U.S. since 2009
  • The national leader in sophisticated paired kidney donation
  • Specialists in the most complicated and hard-to-match transplant cases
  • The world's largest paired kidney exchange at a single hospital that included 23 recipients and donors
  • Immunosuppression (method of suppressing the body's immune system to prevent rejection of donor organs and/or tissues) without steroids for most patients

Advantages of kidney transplant over dialysis

The most important advantages of a kidney transplant are that your overall quality of life improves significantly after a kidney transplant, and typically, you will live a longer and healthier life following a transplant. Taking transplant medications is much less time consuming than being on dialysis three times a week or doing at-home peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis.

Generally, we find patients have better energy and a better appetite when they have a kidney transplant. There are very few dietary restrictions when you have a kidney transplant versus dialysis. Additional benefits include more time for your family, increased capability to maintain a job and more available time for travel. Patients on dialysis are at a higher risk for developing heart disease, but that risk goes down significantly with a kidney transplant.

Click here to learn more about becoming a donor

Living donor kidney transplant program

Methodist Healthcare has developed opportunities for prospective kidney recipients waiting for a kidney, including living kidney donor transplants. The decision to donate a kidney is a serious one for the donor and the recipient. If you choose to become a living donor, it can be a very rewarding experience. You are giving the gift of life to someone you care about.

With over 3,600 kidney transplants completed to date, we are one of the top transplant facilities in the U.S.

If you are interested in becoming a living kidney donor, call the Donor Hotline at (210) 575-GIVE (4483) or (800) 888-0402 to start the evaluation process.

What can a kidney donor expect?

The donor evaluation consists of lab work, diagnostic imaging and a psychosocial evaluation. It is recommended that the testing take place at our facility. If the donor resides outside of the San Antonio area, most of the testing can be done at one of our outreach clinics or a local hospital.

The donor will be required to visit our transplant center at least once before surgery. The entire cost of the evaluation, operation and follow-up care related to the surgery is usually paid by the recipient’s health insurance provider. Typically, donors return to normal activities within two to six weeks.

Paired donor exchange program

We are a national leader in exchange transplantation with a team solely dedicated to transplanting patients with living donors who are not a match. We have a large database with hundreds of incompatible recipient/donor pairs. Over 250 patients have benefited from this program.

Incompatible exchange program

Recipients may have a willing living donor that cannot donate because they are not a match due to incompatible blood types or the recipient's antibodies. A recipient/donor pair that is willing to participate in this program would be placed in a database to potentially find another recipient/donor pair that could be a compatible match for each other.

It can be very difficult to find a suitable exchange pair and the wait can be long. You will be contacted by the exchange team when a potential match is found.

Compatible exchange program

Another type of exchange program involves exchanging recipient/donor pairs that are “compatible,” meaning they are not sensitized and have compatible blood types. Research has shown that the age of the donor kidney is a strong predictor of long term kidney function.

This kidney paired donor exchange program offers patients with older compatible kidney donors the opportunity to exchange donors with recipients that have a younger donor who is not compatible with them. This means a recipient has a chance to receive a kidney from a younger donor while the other recipient with an incompatible donor can receive a living donor kidney transplant from a compatible donor.

If you think you may be a candidate for an incompatible kidney transplant, please call the live donor hotline at (210) 575-GIVE (4483) or (800) 888-0402.

Paired kidney donation is a step in reducing the time spent on the kidney transplant waiting list, and increases access to organs for all kidney transplant candidates.

Sensitized patient program

About 30 percent of patients who are waiting for a transplant have high antibody levels, usually from a previous transplant, blood transfusion or pregnancy. These antibodies can make it very difficult to find a donor match, resulting in long wait times on the list. Many of these patients have living donors, but because they have high antibody levels, they react to the donor’s cells and are not a match.

Through the sensitized program, the recipient can undergo plasmapheresis treatments with intravenous medication to help remove these antibodies. Sometimes this takes several treatments. The antibody levels are checked to see if the treatments are successful in order to schedule the living donor kidney transplant.

A second option for sensitized patients with living donors is the donor exchange program. The recipient/donor pair will be placed in the donor exchange program to find a suitable exchange pair which is an acceptable match.

Preparing for a kidney transplant

The first step in the kidney transplantation process begins with a referral by the prospective patient's physician or by the patient contacting our clinic.

A transplant financial coordinator verifies insurance benefits and begins creating a financial plan regarding all kidney transplant services. The clinic then contacts the patient and the referring physician's office to discuss expectations and schedule an appointment for a half-day pre-transplant evaluation. Recipients are encouraged to bring their potential donors with them to the initial visit.

Private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, provides coverage for kidney transplants. The cost, however, may not be fully reimbursed. Our team coordinates benefits with social agencies and other potential funding sources to help finance transplants. Our financial coordinators can assist the patient with information and financial planning.

Your first visit to our Kidney Transplant Clinic

During the initial clinic visit, the patient meets with the transplant team for a comprehensive health evaluation.

Within two weeks of the first visit, the patient, referring physician and insurance company are given the recommendations made at the patient care conference. For most patients, additional diagnostic tests are required. The clinic’s scheduling staff will work with the patient and dialysis center to have those tests completed as quickly as possible.

Kidney transplant waiting list

Once additional tests are completed and reviewed by the transplant surgeon, the patient is added to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national donor waiting list and candidacy is determined. If the patient has potential living donors, the donor evaluation begins only after the recipient is cleared. The process for clearing a transplant recipient might take a few weeks or could continue for months.

If a compatible living donor cannot be found, the patient must wait for a kidney from a deceased donor which may become available at any time of the day or night. While waiting, the patient follows the physician's orders for dialysis and routine evaluations. Once a kidney becomes available, the patient will be contacted and given specific instructions. The patient will undergo preoperative testing and receive a physical examination by the transplant physicians to ensure their medical condition is still suitable to receive a new kidney.

Kidney transplant recovery

The average hospital stay for a kidney transplant recipient is six days but varies for each patient. While hospitalized, the multidisciplinary team of transplant coordinators, dietitians, social workers and support staff provide post-transplant education and support services.

After discharge from the hospital, activity will be limited for six to eight weeks. Mild exercise, such as walking, is encouraged but driving and strenuous exercises are prohibited. The patient must keep a daily record of temperature, doses and times medication is taken. Patients usually return to work within two to three months, though follow-up appointments with physicians are necessary.

Our medical specialists always remain available to answer any questions and provide assistance following transplantation.

Frequently asked questions

Will I feel better after a kidney transplant?

Undergoing kidney transplantation will help restore kidney function, thus eliminating the need for dialysis. Most patients recover strength and energy and are expected to be able to live twice as long, as compared to remaining on dialysis.

Will I have to go back to the hospital after a transplant?

Kidney transplant rejection is a concern after transplant surgery. Transplant patients have a schedule of necessary follow-up visits with the transplant team, which will include clinic and hospital visits.

How safe is the donor operation?

Our experience with living donors is greater than any other Texas program. Most donor operations are now done with laparoscopic techniques, which speed the recovery of the donor. Typically, donors return to normal activities within a few weeks.

Will I be on medications for a long time after the transplant?

Transplant patients generally start with six to eight medications in addition to their anti-rejection medications. By six months, patients generally take two to three per day. Eventually, patients are required to take only their anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives.

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