Kidney transplant surgery

Find out what happens during the transplant operation

Key points

  • Kidney transplant surgery takes 2-4 hours
  • You will be put to sleep under a general anaesthetic while the transplant takes place
  • There are many different ways that a kidney can be transplanted. Your surgeon will explain their preferred technique
  • You will need special tubes inserted into your arms, neck and bladder for medicines, fluids, and so you can urinate
  • You will usually only need one kidney to be transplanted. Some patients do require two (dual kidney transplantation)

How is kidney transplant surgery performed?

There are many different ways that a kidney can be transplanted. The surgical team caring for you will explain their preferred technique, and which would be best for you. Most of the time, a single kidney is placed into either the right or left groin (lower abdomen).

How it works

How kidneys are connected

You have a right and left kidney, which are connected to your body via arteries (red) and veins (blue). They are also joined to your bladder.

Illustration showing the position of the right and left kidneys in the body, and how they join to the bladder

Kidneys in close up

This is a close up of a pair of kidneys. The cross section shows how the kidney artery (red) and kidney vein (blue) spread across the kidney. The yellow tube is the ureter, which connects the kidneys to your bladder.

Illustration of the kidneys showing the positions of the kidney artery, kidney vein and ureter

Connecting a donor kidney

The donor kidney is transplanted alongside your own kidneys, and connected at these three points - the kidney artery, kidney vein and ureter.

Illustration showing where the kidney are in the body, with a close up view of donor kidneys and how they would connect to a patient via the kidney artery, kidney vein and ureter

Close up of a transplanted kidney

This shows a transplanted kidney and its different connection points. The stent inside the ureter helps the join heal and is removed several weeks after the surgery.

Illustration of a transplanted kidney connecting to an artery to the right leg, a vein from the right leg and ureter from the kidney transplant with a stent inside

Some things that might happen during your kidney transplant surgery

An example of a kidney transplant technique 

After you have been put to sleep under anaesthetic, the surgery will begin.

Your own kidneys will usually be left where they are, unless they're causing problems such as pain or infection. First, an incision (cut) is made in your lower abdomen (tummy), through which the donated kidney is put into place.

More information

Medical terms explained


This is when a very small piece of tissue is taken for analysis. It is used to diagnose rejection.


A soft plastic tube that is often placed inside the ureter during a kidney transplant to help the join heal. It will be taken out several weeks after the surgery using a simple procedure.

Peritoneal dialysis

A type of dialysis where toxins are removed from your blood through the lining of your tummy (abdomen).

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