What to Expect

One way that Children's supports your child and family through this challenging time is by helping you understand as much as possible about the transplant process.

You most likely have many questions about Children's and how to prepare your child for her clinic visit. Get more information about your child's clinic visit, including:

  • Important things to do before the appointment
  • Tips on helping your child feel safer about the upcoming visit
  • Paperwork to remember the day of the appointment
  • Suggested questions to ask your child's doctor
  • How to prepare for care at home

How does the transplant process start?

We accept referrals from your child's primary care doctor, a specialist, a case manager or directly from you.

What happens before the transplant?

Your child will receive a pre-transplant evaluation before we can begin working with the organizations that handle the organ donation process.

We will review your child's medical and surgical history and schedule an office visit with the transplant doctor and other members of the transplant team.

Once the evaluation is complete, your child's case will be reviewed by the transplant team and they will determine whether a kidney transplant is the best option for your child.

What happens once the decision to transplant is made?

If you have a family member or other living donor who is able to donate a kidney and who may be a good match, that person's evaluation will take place at the University of Washington Medical Center.

If it's a good match, the surgery will be performed there too. The UW Medical Center is just two miles away from Children's. Once the kidney is removed from the donor, it will be quickly transported from the UWMC to Children's for your child's transplant.

If there is not a living donor available, your child will be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor.

UNOS is the nonprofit scientific and educational organization that matches organs with recipients and collects and manages data about every transplant occurring in the United States.

There are many things to keep in mind while you are waiting for a kidney transplant.

What happens during the transplant surgery?

Preparing your child and yourselves for surgery may help reduce your family's stress during this time.

Our team is committed to helping children who need surgery and their families cope well with the experience. We want you to know what's going to happen each step of the way.

Learn more about what to expect if your child is having surgery, including:

  • What to do once surgery is scheduled
  • Tips to help your child feel safer about the surgery
  • What to bring the day of surgery
  • What to expect the day of surgery
  • Helpful questions to ask your child's doctor
  • How to prepare for care at home

Most kidney transplant surgeries last about four to six hours. During surgery, you will be asked to check in at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and be given a pager so that staff in the operating room can keep you informed of how your child is doing.

There are many comfortable places to wait at the hospital while your child is in surgery.

What happens after the transplant?

Patients begin their recovery in the PICU, where the transplant kidney function is closely monitored and transplant immunosuppression medicines are started. Most patients stay in the PICU for two to three days and are then moved to the Surgical Unit.

Find out what you need to know about your child's stay at Children's, including:

  • Things to do before your child's arrival
  • Preparing your child for a hospital stay
  • What to expect during your child's stay
  • Helpful questions to ask your child's doctor
  • Information to help you after your child has been discharged

Once discharged from the hospital, your child will continue to visit the clinic for follow-up care. A regular schedule of visits will ensure that your child:

  • Is recovering from surgery
  • Has no signs of infection or organ rejection
  • Is learning about and understanding how to take prescribed medicines
  • Is returning to an active, normal lifestyle

Who will we see in the Nephrology Clinic?

Your child will be cared for by the same team of doctors, nurses and specialists before, during and after transplant. Our skilled team of specialists includes:

Pediatric transplant surgeons

Doctors who perform transplant operations on children

Pediatric nephrologists

Doctors who care for children who have diseases of the kidney

Pediatric urologists

Doctors who treat children with urinary problems

Pediatric anesthesiologists

Doctors who give children medicine to sleep during surgery

Physician assistants

Licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision

Advanced registered nurse practitioners

Nurses with master's degrees who take primary responsibility for the care of their patients

Registered nurse coordinators

Nurses who coordinate who your child will see during clinic visits


Ensure your child gets the nutrition they need for growth and development


Prepare medications prescribed by doctors and tell you about a medicine's purpose, effectiveness and side effects

Social workers

Help families understand and address the emotional and practical aspects of medical care

Child Life specialists

Work with patients and families to help reduce anxiety, develop positive coping skills and adjust to the hospital experience; also provide information about play, child development and adjustments to illness

Transplant specialists

Schedule visits and help patients and families manage insurance coverage and finances