Kidney Transplant Program (Pediatric)

Diseased kidneys do not do a good job of filtering toxins or removing water from the body. To stay healthy, children with diseased kidneys will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. A kidney transplant improves the length and quality of life of children whose own kidneys have failed.

At the University of Michigan Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program, we have performed more than 635 kidney transplants since the program's beginning in 1964, and we can report organ rejection and patient survival rates that rank among the world's best. We have the most experienced program within the state of Michigan, with particular expertise in the transplantation of children under the age of 2.

Kidney transplant is the therapy of choice for children with kidney failure, but there are other options, such as hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Our medical team can help you determine which one is best for your child and your family.

University of Michigan Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program

  • We provide individualized patient and family centered care provided by a team of specialized health care professionals.
  • Education is provided before, during and after the transplant for children and their families, utilizing our Child Life services and Pediatric Transplant Psychologists, to ease anxiety, answer questions and help kids feel in control of their treatment plan.
  • We ensure each child and family are involved, collaborating with members of our team, which includes social workers, dieticians, transplant coordinators, nurse practitioners, physicians, surgeons, living donor advocates, financial coordinators, pharmacists and the clinical research team.
  • We have access to novel clinical trials and cutting-edge treatments that aren’t widely available. This includes desensitization for children with too many antibodies or whose blood type doesn’t match an available donor.
  • Our strong pre-transplant nutritional program with dedicated dietitians keeps kids healthier so we can transplant them earlier than other centers.
  • We have expertise in small infants and children with technically challenging concerns, such as cardiovascular or urological abnormalities.
  • Approximately 15 pediatric kidney transplants are performed each year.

We Do Transplants When Other Centers Can’t

Because of our high volume, decades of experience, cutting-edge therapies and multidisciplinary team of specialists, we can perform transplants for children who have been turned down by other centers, including those with surgical issues, children who are obese, and children who are “sensitized”.

Living Kidney Donors

As of May 2011, there were close to 2,500 individuals on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the state of Michigan, and more than 111,000 in the nation. Due to the length of the kidney waiting list and the short supply of deceased donor organs, the waiting period for a deceased donor kidney can be several years. Therefore, having a live donor can decrease a child’s waiting time for a kidney transplant. Parents, siblings, other relatives and altruistic donors can be considered for a living kidney donation. Our Transplant team is always available to ensure all patients’ and potential donors’ questions are answered thoroughly and confidentially. Additional counseling is available to help with the decision-making process.

The Transplant Process

Candidates for kidney transplant require a comprehensive evaluation. The process includes education, medical records review, patient examination and often additional medical testing. The cases are then reviewed by our transplant team and a decision about each child’s suitability for an organ is made.

Routine medical care must be current prior to transplantation. It’s recommended that children are current with their routine health care prior to their evaluations including dental exams and immunizations (including PPD, pneumovax, and influenza vaccine).

At the evaluation appointment, the child and family meets with several members of the pediatric transplant team, including a transplant coordinator, nephrologists, surgeon, social worker and transplant nurse. The evaluation appointment often involves blood work, a chest x-ray, and an ECHO. This appointment takes about 4 hours. Some patients will require additional testing and follow-up appointments.

When a donor organ becomes available, the child and family head to the hospital. The vast majority of the time, the child’s kidney is not removed simply because it’s not necessary. The new kidney is placed in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Following the operation, the child goes to the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) for initial management and then to the hospital room. Children may be discharged between 5 and 10 days after the procedures, depending on their age and how smoothly they recover from the operation.

Children are seen weekly for the first three months following transplant. The transplant team will be communicating throughout the process with the child’s referring nephrologist and primary care provider. Eventually, follow-up clinic visits will be scheduled every three or four months at University Hospital.


Our team is dedicated to helping children become healthy, productive adults. To ensure they are able to care for themselves as they get older and go on to live independent lives, we assess each child carefully to determine their ability for self-care. We begin that transition process very early – before they are teenagers – so they learn to administer their own medications, call for their own prescriptions schedule testing and more. It takes a lot of supervised transition education before most kids can provide their own self-care. The earlier we start the process, the better their chances for success.

  • Children can typically return to school 6-8 weeks after transplantation.
  • A dedicated social worker will help families arrange home schooling until they can go back to school full time.
  • For those who participate in sports, we will provide a referral for a specialized shield to wear for protection It is molded for each child and worn discretely under the uniform.
  • Our Transplant Specialty Pharmacy has pharmacists and customer service staff specialized in transplant medications; dedicated solely to assisting our patients through their treatment process.
  • Each summer we provide children 7-15 years of age, who have had an organ transplant, an exciting camping experience called Camp Michitanki.

Transplant Research Studies

Research is an important component of the University of Michigan Transplant Center, where we are committed to cutting-edge studies that will benefit today's children and patients of the future. As the site of the Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center, and as an integral component of the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, our team annually collects and analyzes data on dialysis patients worldwide, and on all transplant recipients in the U.S. This makes us the world's leader in dialysis and transplant outcome research. Furthermore, comprehensive multi-disciplinary clinics and extensive clinical and basic science research program assure our patients access to the newest medications and technologies.

Take the Next Step

For more information contact us at 734-615-2040.