Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 4:18AM EST

Treatment Options for Polycystic Kidney Disease

Prolonging Survival in Polycystic Kidney Disease

Kidney transplantation is a successful alternative for many patients with end stage renal failure due to polycystic kidney disease. The healthy, transplanted kidney does not develop cysts. Most people feel that a successful kidney transplant results in a better quality of life than dialysis, since it is associated increased energy levels and a less restricted diet than required for dialysis.

There are two types of donor kidneys that may be transplanted into a recipient:

  • Cadaver kidney - kidney which comes from a person who died
  • Living donor - kidney that is donated either by someone in the patient's immediate or extended family, or by a stranger whose tissue type matches the recipient.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these sources and it is important to discuss these options in depth with your health care provider. In the United States, it is estimated that the survival rate for patients following kidney transplantation is approximately 85% at three years.

Complications following kidney transplantation include:

  • Rejection
  • Infection
  • Liver disease
  • Osteoporosis

A highly significant complication that can occur following kidney transplantation is rejection of the new kidney by the recipient's immune system. The immune system may see the new kidney as foreign and attempt to destroy it. To prevent this from happening, patients are given anti-rejection drugs that suppress the immune system. These include:

  • Cyclosporine or tacrolimus
  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone)
  • Mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), azathioprine (Imuran) or rapamycin (Rapamune)

Side effects of immuno-suppressant drugs include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Infection
  • Osteoporosis

Most side effects can be controlled by either changing the dose or type of medication causing them. There are also other medications that can minimize or reduce specific side effects. If rejection occurs and the transplanted kidney fails, many patients choose to undergo a second kidney transplant.

Regular follow-up by a health care provider is crucial for any renal transplant recipient. It is very important for the patient to understand any restrictions which may be imposed following a kidney transplant (e.g. diet, or exercise).