Pediatric Kidney Transplant
With 900 pediatric kidney transplants performed, UCLA's program is one of the largest and most experienced in the world. We consistently lead the nation in pediatric kidney transplantation, based upon both volume and survival rates.
Together, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center provide transplantation and follow-up care for patients from birth through all phases of adulthood.
Highly Specialized Pediatric Kidney Transplantation
Our expertise in pediatric kidney transplantation means we can support kidney transplant patients through any phase of care, from renal disease through transplantation and recovery.
Our patients and their families choose our program because we offer:
- Outstanding outcomes: Our pediatric kidney transplant program has one of the highest three-year graft and patient survival rates in the U.S., at 95 percent and 100 percent, respectively. (National averages are 88 percent and 98 percent, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, a national database of transplant statistics.)
- Attention to comprehensive needs: UCLA pediatric specialists focus on all the needs of each child and family, including growth optimization, brain development, post-transplant care and psychosocial support.
- Experienced team: Our team includes medical experts in pediatric urology as well as kidney transplant surgeons and other clinical professionals. Meet our team.
- Expertise with complex cases: Often, UCLA's Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program successfully transplants difficult cases other centers have declined. These include:
- Recipients requiring extensive bladder reconstruction
- Patients with recurrent diseases, such as atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which causes abnormal blood clots to form in small blood vessels of the kidneys, and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which attacks the kidney's filtering system and causes scarring
- Living donor kidney transplant, which makes transplantation possible, sooner, for more patients
The transplant process begins with a referral to the UCLA Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program. You, your physician, your medical group or your dialysis unit can make the referral to schedule an appointment. After we have gathered basic information, you will be scheduled for an appointment for evaluation with our pediatric transplant team made up of the pediatric nephrologist, pediatric surgeon, pediatric social worker, and the pediatric kidney transplant coordinator. You may see all of these team members at your first visit or over several visits depending on your child's needs.
If you are interested in kidney transplant as a treatment option, there are two types of transplants to consider. Your transplant team will work with you to determine which option is right for you.
- Living donor: A person who donates one of their kidneys to someone in need. Living donors may be blood relatives or individuals with emotional ties to the transplant candidate. Finding a living donor match dramatically shortens your waiting time, increases long-term transplant kidney and patient survival, and gives you the flexibility of scheduling your date of surgery. People who donate a kidney can live healthy lives with one healthy kidney. However, only 1 in 5 donors are healthy enough to donate a kidney, so if you do not have a potential living donor then if you are a candidate you will be placed on the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney.
- Deceased donor: A kidney from an individual who has suffered brain or cardiac death and they generously donate their organs for transplant. The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney in the Los Angeles area is five to ten years, and sometimes longer, as the national waiting list continues to grow every year.
- Multi-organ transplant: Our transplant surgeons work closely with other medical experts at UCLA, including the Urology Department, one of the nation's top programs. We have successfully transplanted multiple organs for complex patients, and our physicians and surgeons are skilled in transplanting all solid organs, including:
Understanding Kidney Donor Options
If your child needs an organ transplant, you want to do everything you can to increase the chances of finding a match. At UCLA, our team has the same goal. Our research and innovation allows us to increase the odds of successful organ transplants and expand the donor pool. Learn more about the options we offer:
Pediatric kidney exchange: UCLA is one of the few pediatric centers nationwide to offer a kidney exchange. Since 2008, our pioneering Kidney Exchange Program gives children and adults who are unable to receive a kidney from a loved one or friend the opportunity to still receive a living donor organ. The kidney exchange facilitates donation through otherwise incompatible donor-recipient pairs.
- Incompatible donor transplant: At UCLA, some living donor transplants are possible even if they involve incompatible blood type kidney transplant (ABO) or tissue antigen (HLA) incompatible pairs:
- UCLA pediatric renal specialists are experts in "desensitizing," a process that lowers antibody levels in the recipient's blood before a transplant.
- This process reduces the risk of organ rejection, even in the case of incompatible donors and recipients.
- The result is a broader donor pool, better-matched organs and potentially shorter wait time for a transplant.
- Immunogenetics for transplant: UCLA's renowned Immunogenetics Center is a World Health Organization reference laboratory for HLA typing and crossmatch testing. The lab's expert analysis increases the odds of successful tissue and organ transplants.
Caring for Children Before, During and After Kidney Transplant
We work closely with our Department of Pediatrics' Child Life Specialists, who help your family learn how to manage post-transplant care and navigate the rehabilitation process.
We work to make the transplant experience as seamless as possible for your child and your family:
- We offer patient support groups and a buddy system that matches new transplant patients with children and teens living a successful post-transplant life.
- Whenever feasible, we prefer patients to remain in the comfort of home as long as possible before transplant.
- Following a transplant, patients usually stay in the hospital for about a week, although this stay might last up to several weeks depending on the circumstances. Our patient care teams work with families to find options for lodging and other resources. Learn more about patient education.
- After a transplant, we frequently become your child's primary care provider. We'll care for your child until about age 21, when our specialists will help ensure a smooth transition to adult care.
- Our adolescent transition program follows patients weekly, monthly and bimonthly as your pre-teen or teenager takes on more responsibility for care. Our specialist social worker and physician support your family through this transition.
Pediatric Kidney Transplant: Research and Clinical Trials
We are constantly working to develop and advance new approaches to help pediatric patients. Some of our recent and ongoing work includes:
- Making more transplants available through advanced surgical techniques, such as living donor kidney transplant. This surgery allows a living donor - often a relative or friend - to donate a kidney to a transplant recipient.
- Continuing to advance multiple-organ transplantation in the pediatric population, such as kidney-heart transplant or kidney-liver transplant.
- Searching for less-toxic medications, including steroid-free immunosuppressive drugs.
Read more about research and clinical trials.