What happens after transplantation depends on the organ transplanted and the recipient’s specific medical situation. Most patients recover fully, return to work and resume a normal, active life after receiving a new organ. However, there is a possibility of developing unrelated health problems after transplantation. That’s why it is important to work closely with your doctor concerning your overall wellness, as well as regarding the following health concerns:
Anxiety and depression
Patients and their families face a new lifestyle after transplantation that may cause them to feel nervous, stressed or depressed. Because emotional and psychological support is a continuing process, ask your social worker about counseling services that can help you and your family deal with these changes. Professionals can help you work through concerns about your self image; mood swings; job planning; rehabilitation; family stresses, such as parent-child conflicts, marital conflict or changes in sexual functioning; and financial concerns, such as questions about Medicare, disability or insurance.
Some anti-rejection medicines are known to cause high blood sugar. Although it is typically a temporary condition after transplantation, it is more common in patients who have a family history of diabetes and patients who are over weight. It can be controlled by reducing the dose of a patient’s anti-rejection medicines or changing medications all together.
GI (gastrointestinal) upset is also a common complaint after a transplant. Patients on steroid therapy may be at an increased risk of developing ulcers due to increased hydrochloric acid from the stress of the procedure. Treatment of GI Upset may include one or a combination of drugs that reduce acid production. In addition, people with GI upset should take several steps to reduce symptoms, including:
- Reducing the intake of caffeine, alcohol and other over-the-counter medications that cause GI upset.
- Taking medications with food to decrease irritation.
Gout is a painful and potentially disabling form of arthritis. Diagnosing gout can be difficult and treatment plans vary based on a patient’s existing medical problems and medications.
Many immunosuppressant drugs can contribute to high cholesterol. This condidtion therefore affects many transplant recipients. When a patient develops high cholesterol, blood vessels, including the ones attached to the transplanted organ, become clogged, which affects the flow of blood. This slowing of blood flow can affect the success of your transplant and may even lead to heart disease. It is important to talk to your doctor about how to reduce the risk factors of heart disease, including controlling your cholesterol.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common immediately after transplant. Certain anti-rejection medications, as well as the original disease, all can contribute to hypertension. Treatment of hypertension may include one or a combination of drugs, and often, as anti-rejection medicines are tapered to a maintenance dose, hypertension may decrease. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you and how to avoid high blood pressure.
People with weakened immune systems, such as transplant recipients treated with immunosuppressive drugs, risk developing shingles. Shingles is a painful infection of the central nervous system caused by the Varicella virus that causes a blistering rash and severe burning pain, tingling or extreme sensitivity to the skin and is usually limited to one side of the body. The severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be significantly reduced by immediate treatment with antiviral drugs.
Reference and Publication Information
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is committed to providing accurate and reliable information for transplant patients. The content on this page was originally created on August 1, 2003 by UNOS and last modified on December 4, 2016. The following sources were used as references:
Day, Claire, BS, RN, CCTC and Rose Rivers, PhD, RN. Ed. Chabalewski, Franki. “Nursing Care of the Renal Transplant Recipient.” UNOS Donation and Transplantation Nursing Curriculum. 1996
Pharr, Elizabeth, Ph.D. and Janet Mize, R.N., CCTC. Coping with an Organ Transplant. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2001
This Web site is intended solely for the purpose of electronically providing the public with general health-related information and convenient access to the data resources. UNOS is not affiliated with any one product nor does UNOS assume responsibility for any error, omissions or other discrepancies.