Kidney Transplant Center in Denver

The Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center (P/SL) Kidney Transplant Center was established in October 1985 and has performed over 1,600 transplants. A kidney transplant is not just a surgical procedure—it is a life-changing experience with wide-ranging physical and emotional benefits. Our multidisciplinary team will be with you every step of the way by guiding, advising and answering your questions. At P/SL, we complement our medical and surgical expertise about the kidney transplant process with passionate, comprehensive, coordinated and family-centered care that continues from evaluation and surgery to post-transplant care.

To schedule an appointment with the Kidney Transplant Center or to obtain living donor information, please call us at (720) 754-2155. You can also email our living donor team.

How are we different?

For more than 30 years, the team at the Kidney Transplant Center has offered superior expertise and experience for patients requiring kidney transplant procedures. Learn more about how we are different from other programs.

One-on-one care during your transplant journey

The members of your transplant team will meet with you one-on-one in a private hospital setting to deliver a personalized experience. We will work with your referring physicians on a regular basis to keep them informed, assuring that you will receive the best care throughout your transplant journey.

Our survival rates and statistics

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the federal agency that administers the Medicare program and monitors the Medicaid programs offered by each state. As a Medicare-approved kidney transplant program, we are required to provide you with our most recent one year patient and graft survival rates. on a regular basis. This information is released for public review every January and July.

The information below reflects outcomes for patients who received kidney transplants at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Kidney Transplant Program, as well as those transplanted nationwide, from January 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015.

Who should consider a kidney transplant?

If you have kidney disease and declining kidney function, approaching 25 percent or less, you may be a candidate for kidney transplant. You do not have to be on dialysis to be eligible for a transplant. Studies have shown that a transplanted kidney has a superior ability to filter your blood than dialysis treatments and likely will result in improved length and quality of life and better long-term health. A transplant evaluation will determine if and when you would benefit from a kidney transplant.

When is the right time to discuss kidney transplant with your provider?

Earlier is better. Almost all patients with kidney conditions leading to Stage 4 or greater chronic renal failure are good candidates for transplant education and evaluation. We will work with you during the early stages of your disease so you can be evaluated and start learning about the transplant process.

You may not qualify immediately for a transplant, but starting the process sooner promotes seamless integration into the transplant process. So, contact the Kidney Transplant Center for a consultation about referral and evaluation.

What about costs?

Most private health insurance policies will cover many of the costs of kidney transplantation, including your medication. Many kidney transplant candidates are covered by Medicare, which covers 80 percent of surgical costs. Each candidate’s coverage is carefully evaluated to determine specific benefits and cost related to transplant.

Preparing for a kidney transplant

Kidney transplantation is recommended for people with end-stage renal (kidney) disease (ESRD). A number of conditions including hypertension, diabetes, polycystic kidney disease, infection, autoimmune disease and acute renal injury cause end-stage kidney disease.

Kidney transplantation may not be recommended for individuals with severe cardiac, pulmonary or liver disease. Patients with active or recent cancer, active infection, or who are very deconditioned may also not be candidates.

What to expect for kidney surgery

The entire surgical procedure usually lasts approximately three to four hours. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will begin by making an incision into one side of your lower abdomen. After the surgeon inspects the donor's kidney, it will be placed into your abdomen and the donor kidney’s renal artery and vein will be sewn to your iliac artery and vein. Once blood is properly flowing into the new kidney, the ureter will be attached to your bladder. The surgeon will then close the site with either staples, sutures or glue.

Post-operative care

Immediately after surgery, you will be taken to the ICU, generally just for 24-hour observation, and then transitioned to a designated transplant floor for the duration of your hospitalization (usually four to five days).

Outpatient follow-up care

Once discharged from the hospital, you will be followed very closely in our transplant clinic. The duration and frequency of visits change over time as kidney function stabilizes and rejection and infection risks decrease.

Post-transplant medications

Anti-rejection medications (also called immunosuppression medications) protect the transplanted kidney by reducing your immune system's ability to mount a response to your new kidney. There are several anti-rejection medications available and each works in a different way to suppress the body’s immune response. Our transplant team will determine which combination of medications is right for each individual patient and may alter a medication regimen after the transplant to prevent rejection or reduce side effects.

Kidney transplant support group

Your social network of friends and family is critical to the success of your transplant. We invite you to participate in a monthly support group at no cost to you or your family. We will provide resources and education needed to navigate through the transplant process. You are encouraged to visit the support group to meet other patients and to learn first-hand about the experiences of others.

Kidney donation

Types of kidney donations

We offer several methods of kidney donations to increase the likelihood that you will have timely access to the life-giving organ that you need.

Living donor transplant

Receiving a living donor kidney transplant is preferable to a deceased donor transplant. This is because living donor kidneys last longer and provide better patient survival than deceased donor kidneys. This will also eliminate your need to stay on the waitlist.

Deceased donor transplant

Donation of a deceased loved one's healthy organs gives recipients the opportunity to continue living long and full lives. Many of our kidney transplant donations were made by the families of deceased individuals who believe organ donation will, in some measure, bring the comfort of knowing that, out of death, life can continue.

If receiving a kidney from a living donor is not preferred or possible, the patient will be placed on the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is responsible for the allocation of all deceased donor kidney donations. UNOS uses a set of criteria, including waiting time and tissue compatibility, to match the kidney to the recipient.

Kidney paired donation

If you would like to donate a kidney to a family member or friend but are not a match, you can be paired with another recipient with the same dilemma, creating a circle of recipients and donors.

The process called Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) involves a computer database that may match a potential recipient with a willing donor. A number of transplant centers are members of this alliance, increasing the possible matches. If a computer match is found, the involved transplant centers work closely to coordinate the surgeries and the medical follow up for the best outcome and care of all involved.

Altruistic donation (non-directed donor)

An altruistic donation is when a person volunteers to donate a kidney to an unknown recipient. A non-directed altruistic donor can either donate into the paired donation program to create a "chain" of transplants or donate anonymously to a single patient on the national transplant wait list.

Living Donor Champion program

Finding a living donor can be a difficult task and it can be awkward to discuss donation with others. Through the Living Donor Champion program at Presbyterian/St. Luke's, you have the opportunity to identify a friend or family member to become your Living Donor Champion (LDC). We will provide education and training to your LDC so they can tell your story to others and help identify a living donor for you.

If you would like to sign up for the Living Donor Champion classes, register online. If you have a Living Donor Champion, please call us at (720) 754-2155 for more information.

Financial costs

A kidney donor’s medical expenses, including evaluation, surgery, hospitalization and after-care are covered by the organ recipient's insurance. It is against federal law for anyone to pay directly for living organs, but it is acceptable for a recipient to cover expenses for any travel, lodging or lost wages resulting from the donation.

Additional kidney transplant information

Research trials

P/SL has an active research division. Clinical investigations are constantly evaluating current protocols for a kidney transplant that may prolong survival rates, decrease rejection episodes or decrease the side effects of anti-rejection drugs.

There may be a research protocol or study that would benefit you. The research team will give you detailed information about the study. However, enrolling in a research study is voluntary.

Transplantation for HIV patients

Advances in the treatment of HIV have resulted in improved survival and better outcomes in this population. As a result, kidney transplantation has emerged as an important consideration for HIV patients with kidney failure. At P/SL, we continue to serve HIV-positive patients successfully. Some HIV drugs can interact with anti-rejection medications and we work closely with infectious disease specialists and pharmacists in this regard.

Steroid-free protocols

Studies have shown that steroid use has side effects such as high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and weight gain, but medical breakthroughs have made it possible to forego their use while still minimizing the chance of organ rejection. Approximately 80 percent of patients at our program are steroid free.

Pancreas transplant care

Our transplant nephrologists assume medical follow up care of pancreas transplant recipients that have been transplanted elsewhere. We also evaluate patients who would be candidates for a simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplant.

Transplantation in older adults

Nearly half of all new end-stage renal disease patients are over 65 years old and kidney transplantation, when done in a carefully selected population can provide a survival benefit. Our team of doctors has expertise in evaluating and caring for these patients.

Kidney transplant resources

We offer many resources to our patients and their family and loved ones. Our resources include:

  • Comprehensive urologic care: we address all urological treatment needs – before and after transplantation – for our patients
  • Pregnancy counseling: we provide consultation and transplantation services to patients who want to become pregnant
  • Financial counseling: we offer assistance to help you navigate through the financial process
  • Transplant 101 group classes: these classes are held in-person and remotely on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 1:30pm and the 4th Wednesday at 10:00am.

We also offer online resources to allow you to do additional research on your own. These online resources include: