I was pretty lucky to receive a living-donor kidney, spend only two days in the hospital following the transplant surgery, and have no complications after that. Many transplant recipients spend days or even weeks in the hospital post surgery, suffer from rejection episodes, and endure infections.
A recent study found that “most renal transplant recipients require at least one hospitalization after transplantation surgery, and infections are among the most common reasons.” Apparently, most of the hospitalizations occur within the first six months after surgery, and the usual stay is three days.
The study showed that infections were the cause of 60% of these early post-surgery hospitalizations. Urinary tract and skin and soft tissue infections were the most common infections. Renal complications, such as a rejection episode, were a factor in 48% of hospitalizations, and post-surgery wound complications accounted for 19%.
At one month after surgery, 22% of recipients were hospitalized, and 43% were hospitalized by one year. Over 51% of the 285 kidney transplant recipients in the study had a least one hospitalization.
Some of the risk factors that are more likely to result in hospital readmission following transplant surgery are clear. A pre-transplant diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease caused by diabetes) that results in the need for the transplant were associated with a twofold increased risk for infection-related hospitalization. Urologic abnormalities increased the risk for hospitalization by a whooping 86%. Having a graft (transplanted kidney) rejection episode shortly following the transplant surgery doubled the risk for hospitalization later.
By knowing which patients are more likely to require post-transplant hospitalization (those with diabetes, urologic abnormalities, or who suffer a rejection episode), clinicians can keep a closer eye on them. These high-risk patients could have lab tests and office visits more frequently during the first year following transplant surgery. This could reduce complications and cut hospitalization costs and scares.