About the​ Kidney

To better understand the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at Lurie Children’s, a review of kidney function may be hel​pful.

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, that are made up of filters and tubes that act to filter the blood. Locat​ed on each side of the spine, below the rib cage, the kidney is connected to the renal artery and the renal vein, as well as to the bladder. 

As blood enters through the renal artery, the kidneys act to filter waste products from it. The cleaned blood then leaves the kidney through the renal vein. The waste, called urine, leaves the kidneys through tubes called ​ureters, which are connected to the bladder. During urination, this waste passes out of the body through a tube called the urethra. 

The kidneys are responsible for many important functions including: 

  • ​Clearing waste products from the body 
  • Controlling the amount of fluid in the body 
  • Making a hormone that helps the body produce red blood cells 
  • Creating the active form of vitamin D, which is needed for strong bones and growth
  • Controlling blood pressure

When kidneys no longer effectively clear the body of waste products, the condition called en​d-stage renal disease (ESRD) results. 

Need for Kidney Transpla​ntation

Unfortunately, there are no cures for ESRD, so recommended treatment is dialysis and/or kidney transplantation. Since people need only one healthy kidney to survive, if someone in your family is a good match for you, they may donate a kid​​ney. If no one in your family can donate a kidney, an unrelated live donor can be considered and your name can be placed on a waiting list for a cadaver kidney. 

During a kidney transplant operation, the new kidney is placed in the lower front half of your abdomen, on either the right or left side. Next, the renal artery and vein of your new kidney is connected to your iliac (groin) artery and vein. Finally, the ureter of your new kidney is connected to your bladder, so urine can flow from the transplanted kidney into your bladder.