Managing Your Kidney Transplant: A Guide to Medications, Monitoring, and Signs to Watch For!

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

A brief summary of the article:

Kidney transplantation is a life-saving surgery for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) that has progressed to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD means your kidneys can no longer function well enough to keep you healthy.

After a kidney transplant in iran, it’s crucial to learn how to properly care for your new kidney to ensure its long-term health. This guide provides essential information for successful post-transplant management, covering key aspects:

  • Medication: Understanding immunosuppressive drugs: types, dosage, and potential side effects.
  •  Monitoring: The importance of regular lab tests (creatinine, BUN, electrolytes, CBC) to assess kidney function and overall well-being.
  • Warning Signs: – Recognizing potential complications (e.g., rejection symptoms) and seeking prompt medical attention.

Read more: Navigating the Kidney Transplant Waitlist: A Guide for Patients

Here’s a breakdown of the main areas for ongoing education:


Losing your immune system is scary and concerning. But you have to turn an unpleasant situation into a chance for self-care. The medicines keeping my new kidney safe can stir up trouble in other parts of your body too if you’re not careful.

  • Types of medications

One of the main challenges of kidney transplantation is preventing your body from rejecting the new kidney. Rejection occurs when your immune system, which normally protects you from foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, attacks the transplanted kidney as if it were a threat. To prevent this, you will need to take medications that suppress your immune system, called immunosuppressants, for the rest of your life. Different classes of immunosuppressants include calcineurin inhibitors, antiproliferative agents, corticosteroids, and biologics. Each class has a different mechanism of action and targets different aspects of the immune response. The specific combination and dosage of immunosuppressants that you will take will depend on your case, such as your blood type, the type of donor, and the risk of rejection. Your transplant team will monitor your blood levels of immunosuppressants regularly and adjust them as needed.

  • Dosage Management:

Even if you are feeling well, it is crucial to take your immunosuppressants exactly as your doctor has prescribed. Missing or changing doses can increase the risk of rejection or infection. Following the instructions on when and how to take medications, such as before or after meals, with or without water, and at consistent times daily, is important. Additionally, maintaining a record of medications, including names, doses, and schedules, and bringing it to every appointment is advised. If you have any questions or concerns regarding medications, contacting your transplant team promptly is recommended.

  • Potential Side Effects and Management:

Immunosuppressants can have several side effects, as they affect not only your immune system but also other organs and systems in your body. Some of the common side effects of immunosuppressants are:

  • Increased risk of infection: Because your immune system is weakened, you are more prone to infections, such as bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Maintain good hygiene, get the vaccinations your doctor has advised, and avoid contact with sick people. You should also report any signs of infection, such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, or skin rash, to your doctor as soon as possible.
  • High blood pressure: Anti-inflammatory drugs can cause your blood pressure to rise, which can damage your heart and blood vessels. You should check your blood pressure regularly and follow your doctor’s advice on how to control it. You may need to take medications to lower your blood pressure, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or calcium channel blockers. Limiting salt intake, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are recommended.
  • High blood sugar: Anti-suppressants can affect your blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes or worsen existing diabetes. You should monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and follow your doctor’s advice on how to manage them. You may need to take medications to lower your blood sugar, such as insulin or oral antidiabetic drugs. You should also limit your intake of sugar and carbohydrates, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
  • Osteoporosis: Immunosuppressants can cause your bones to become thin and brittle, which can increase the risk of fractures. You should take calcium and vitamin D supplements as prescribed by your doctor and get regular bone density tests to check your bone health. You should also avoid smoking, limit your alcohol intake, and do weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, or lifting weights.

Read More: Disparities in access to kidney care and transplant

2. Lab Values:

In addition to medications, another important area of ongoing education after a kidney transplant is lab values. You will need to have regular blood tests to check how well your new kidney is working and how your body is responding to the immunosuppressant medications. Understanding the different blood tests and what the results mean can help you be more involved in your care and communicate better with your transplant team. Knowing what to expect can also help you cope with any anxiety or stress that may arise from the tests. Here are some of the common lab values that you will need to monitor after a kidney transplant:

  • Serum creatinine levels: Your muscles produce and your kidneys filter creatinine, which is a waste product. The normal range of creatinine levels in the blood is 0.6 to 1.2 mg/dL for men and 0.5 to 1.1 mg/dL for women. An increase in creatinine levels may indicate that your new kidney is not functioning properly or that you are experiencing rejection. A decrease in creatinine levels may and indicate that your new kidney is functioning well or that your immunosuppressant medications are working. Your transplant team will use your creatinine levels, along with other factors, to assess your kidney function and adjust your medications as needed.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels: Your kidneys filter urea, which is another waste product that your liver produces. The normal range of BUN levels in the blood is 7 to 20 mg/dL. High BUN levels can indicate that your new kidney is not filtering enough urea or that you are dehydrated. Low BUN levels can indicate that your new kidney is filtering too much urea or that you are overhydrated. Your transplant team will use your BUN levels, along with other factors, to assess your kidney function and fluid balance.
  • Electrolytes: Electrolytes are minerals in your blood that are important for many bodily functions, such as maintaining fluid balance, nerve and muscle activity, and acid-base balance. Some of the common electrolytes that are measured in the blood are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. The normal ranges of these electrolytes vary depending on the laboratory and the method used, but generally, they are:
    • Sodium: 135 to 145 mEq/L
    • Potassium: 3.5 to 5.0 mEq/L
    • Calcium: 8.5 to 10.5 mg/dL
    • Magnesium: 1.5 to 2.5 mEq/L
    • Phosphate: 2.5 to 4.5 mg/dL
    • Bicarbonate: 22 to 29 mEq/L

Electrolyte imbalances can occur after a kidney transplant due to various factors, such as your diet, fluid intake, medications, kidney function, and other medical conditions. Electrolyte imbalances can cause symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, confusion, muscle cramps, an irregular heartbeat, and seizures. Your transplant team will use your electrolyte levels, along with other factors, to assess your kidney function and acid-base balance and adjust your medications and diet as needed.

  • Complete blood count (CBC): This test measures the different types of cells in your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The normal ranges of these cells vary depending on the laboratory and the method used, but generally they are:
    • Red blood cells: 4.5 to 5.9 million cells/mcL for men and 4.1 to 5.1 million cells/mcL for women
    • White blood cells: 4,000 to 11,000 cells/mcL
    • Platelets: 150,000 to 450,000 cells/mcL

Common Lab Tests After Kidney Transplant: A Guide for Patients

This table provides a simplified explanation of some common lab tests performed after a kidney transplant. We don’t recommend taking this information as a substitute for medical advice. You should always speak with your doctor about the results of your specific tests.

Test What it measures What it tells us about Possible signs of concern
Serum creatinine Waste products filtered by the kidneys Kidney function Increased levels may indicate decreased kidney function (rejection or other problems)
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) Another waste product filtered by the kidneys Kidney function Increased levels may indicate decreased kidney function (rejection or other problems)
Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) Minerals in the blood Various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, and fluid balance Imbalances can occur due to medications or other issues
Complete blood count (CBC) Different types of cells in your blood (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets) Overall health, including ability to fight infection and anemia Low red blood cell count (anemia) or low white blood cell count can occur

Additional notes:

  • Normal ranges: Each test has a normal range, which can vary slightly depending on the lab performing the test. Your doctor will interpret your results in the context of your situation and medical history.
  • Frequency: You’ll need to have these tests more often depending on your circumstances. Your doctor will decide how often you need them.

3. Danger Signs:

Furthermore, another important area of ongoing education after a kidney transplant is danger signs. You should be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of complications that may occur after a kidney transplant and contact your transplant team immediately if you experience any of them. Some of the common danger signs are:

  • Rejection: This is a serious complication that can occur after a kidney transplant. Rejection occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the transplanted kidney because it recognizes it as of foreign tissue. Symptoms of rejection can include fever, fatigue, pain in the transplanted kidney area, and decreased urine output. Rejection can happen at any time after a kidney transplant, but it is more common in the first few months. More potent immunosuppressants can treat rejection after blood tests have detected it. If left untreated, rejection can damage the transplanted kidney and lead to kidney failure.
  • Infection: People who take immunosuppressant medications are at an increased risk of infection. This is because immunosuppressants weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off germs. Signs of infection can include fever, chills, fatigue, and pain. Infection can affect any part of your body, but some of the most common sites are the urinary tract, the lungs, and the skin. Viruses that can reactivate after a kidney transplant, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), can also cause infection. Infection can be treated with antibiotics or antivirals, depending on the type of germ. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other organs and cause serious complications.
  • High blood pressure: After a kidney transplant, high blood pressure is a common complication. Many factors contribute to high blood pressure, including the transplanted kidney, immunosuppressant medications, or other medical conditions. You should monitor your blood pressure regularly and take steps to control it as necessary.

It is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly and take steps to control it if necessary. You may need to take medications to lower your blood pressure, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or calcium channel blockers. You should also limit your salt intake, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. High blood pressure can damage your heart and blood vessels, and increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

4. Who to Call with Questions/Concerns:

  • Your transplant crew: This all-star medical team of nephrologists, surgeons, coordinators, and more will have my back through it all. I can lean on them for info, encouragement, and help managing my health after surgery. They’ll be keeping a close eye on me!
  • Primary doctor – you shouldn’t forget about your trusted GP who’s helped you for years. They can still support you now by answering questions, refilling some scripts, and lending an ear when you are frustrated or scared. You have a history together

Read More: Long-term health impacts of kidney disease beyond dialysis and transplant!

Who to Call with Questions/Concerns After Kidney Transplant:

Question/Concern Who to Contact Notes
Questions about medications, dosages, or side effects Transplant team (pharmacist or nurse) The transplant team is most familiar with your specific medications and can provide tailored advice.
Urgent concerns about fever, chills, pain, or decreased urine output Surgical team or emergency services These symptoms could indicate rejection or infection, requiring immediate attention. Call 911 or your local emergency number if needed.
General questions about your health, diet, or activity level Transplant coordinator or primary care doctor The transplant coordinator can address general transplant-related questions, while your primary care doctor can provide broader healthcare guidance.
Emotional challenges or concerns about adjusting to life after transplant Transplant social worker or therapist The transplant team often includes mental health professionals who can offer support and guidance.
Financial and Insurance Inquiries Transplant social worker or financial counselor The transplant team can help connect you with resources to navigate the financial aspects of your care.

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