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The kidneys are organs whose function is essential to maintain life. Most people are born with two kidneys, located on either side of the spine, behind the abdominal organs and below the rib cage. The kidneys perform several major functions to keep the body healthy.

  • Filtration of the blood to remove waste products from normal body functions, passing the waste from the body as urine, and returning water and chemicals back to the body as necessary.
  • Regulation of the blood pressure by releasing several hormones.
  • Stimulation of production of red blood cells by releasing the hormone erythropoietin.

The normal anatomy of the kidneys involves two kidney bean shaped organs that produce urine. Urine is then carried to the bladder by way of the ureters. The bladder serves as a storehouse for the urine. When the body senses that the bladder is full, the urine is excreted from the bladder through the urethra.

Kidney Disease

When the kidneys stop working, renal failure occurs. If this renal failure continues (chronically), end-stage renal disease results, with accumulation of toxic waste products in the body. In this case, either dialysis or transplantation is required.

Common Causes of End-Stage Renal Disease

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High blood pressure
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • Severe anatomical problems of the urinary tract

Treatments for End-stage Renal Disease

The treatments for end-stage renal disease are hemodialysis, a mechanical process of cleaning the blood of waste products; peritoneal dialysis, in which waste products are removed by passing chemical solutions through the abdominal cavity; and kidney transplantation.

However, while none of these treatments cure end-stage renal disease, a transplant offers the closest thing to a normal life because the transplanted kidney can replace the failed kidneys. However, it also involves a life-long dependence on drugs to keep the new kidney healthy. Some of these drugs can have severe side effects.

Some kidney patients consider a transplant after beginning dialysis; others consider it before starting dialysis. In some circumstances, dialysis patients who also have severe medical problems such as cancer or active infections may not be suitable candidates for a kidney transplant.

Kidney Transplantation

Kidneys for transplantation come from two different sources: a living donor or a deceased donor.

Transplant Evaluation Process

  • Blood Type Testing
  • Tissue Typing
  • Crossmatch
  • Serology