Pediatric kidney transplant: Creating new possibilities for more than 55 years

Few medical centers have performed kidney transplants on kids for more than half a century. With a long track record of outstanding outcomes and short wait times, our team of UW Health Kids Kidney Transplant surgeons and specialists are here for your child.


We are here for you

When your child needs a kidney transplant, your entire family will benefit from our compassionate team of experts.

We’ve been serving pediatric kidney transplant patients and their families for more than 55 years. We know what your child needs to get healthy and how to help your family succeed in this journey.

Our experienced team can manage the most complex cases, and our outcomes are excellent. Our pediatric kidney transplant wait times are shorter than regional and national averages, and our living donation program is one of the largest in the nation.

We are a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks and a certified living kidney donor center. U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked our pediatric kidney experts among the nation’s best, and it ranks American Family Children’s Hospital among the nation’s top children’s hospitals.

Why choose UW Health?

Our unique corticosteroid-free immunosuppression regimen means 69% of our kids are steroid free compared to 33% nationally.

Our wait times are shorter than other programs in the region and nation and our pre-emptive transplant rate (transplant prior to dialysis) is three times higher than other programs in the nation.

View our pediatric kidney transplant program outcomes and wait times (pdf)

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients provides data about each transplant centers’ volume and outcomes. Learn what the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients means.

See how we compare to other programs

We have served living kidney donors and pediatric recipients for more than 50 years. We offer many living donation options and are one of the nation’s largest living donor programs.

Learn more about living kidney donation

Our membership in the National Kidney Registry increases access to kidneys from living donors so your child gets a better kidney sooner, which is especially important if your child is highly sensitized.

Learn if you can be a living kidney donor

Caring for kids who need more than one organ transplanted is a complex process. Our team has the experience you want and your child needs.

UW Health is an academic medical center. Our team is dedicated to research and has a long list of contributions that have changed the lives of kidney transplant patients. Our research on immunosuppression, including ‘prednisone-free,’ is greatly improving the way kids live with their new kidney. Our experts in pediatrics, nephrology and transplantation are all focused on ways to create better futures and easier experiences for transplant patients.

Learn more about pediatric kidney research

Learn more about our transplant research

To ease your fear as your child grows, we have a respected program to transition kids into adulthood and managing their own care.

Some kids must be on dialysis while waiting for their kidney transplant. We offer home peritoneal dialysis or in-center outpatient hemodialysis in our state-of-the-art American Family Children's Hospital.

Types of kidney transplant

Living donor kidney transplant

Living kidney donation happens when a living person gives one of their kidneys to someone who needs a transplant. The donor can live well with one kidney. Receiving a kidney from a living donor is the best option for people who need a kidney transplant.

Living donation is best for your child because:

  • It shortens their wait time 

  • The kidney will last longer — transplanted living donor kidneys last twice as long as deceased donor kidneys

  • They will get a better matching kidney — We have several options to match donors to recipients, including kidney exchanges

Living kidney donation is either directed or non-directed. Directed donation happens when the donor knows the recipient. In a non-directed donation, the kidney is given to someone who is a good match but unknown to the donor.

Learn more about living kidney donation

Learn if you can be a living kidney donor

Your child may be placed on the waitlist for a deceased donor kidney. Your child will wait to be matched with a donor based on criteria like size, age and blood type and the amount of time your child has been waiting.

Children whose bodies have too many antibodies will likely reject their transplanted kidney. Antibodies can come from a prior transplant or a blood transfusion. During the desensitization process, we remove these antibodies from their blood. UW Health has one of the nation’s few desensitization programs approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Our experts have a lot of experience caring for children who need more than one organ transplanted. These are complex cases, and our team coordinates care between specialists in kidney, liver and pancreas transplantation. They work together to return your child to health.

One patient's remarkable journey

After a nearly two year stay at American Family Children's Hospital, Kingston was able to undergo a kidney transplant. His nurses and the pediatric transplant team were with him and his dad nearly every step of the way.

What to expect

The kidney transplant process for children

Your child’s pediatric kidney transplant is a complex journey. We work with you to make sure this experience is as easy as possible. Our goal is a healthy, happy future for your child.

What to expect

  1. 01.

    Our UW Health pediatric kidney transplant team will meet with your child to determine their need for a transplant. On their evaluation day, you will meet with a pediatric nephrologist (kidney expert) and a transplant surgeon. They will review your child’s medical history and work to decide when a kidney transplant is needed. They may order lab work or other tests. You will also meet with a dietitian, a financial consultant and a social worker who will share more information and answer your questions. Our certified pediatric kidney transplant nurse coordinator has many years of experience and will guide you through your child’s kidney transplant. The nurse coordinator will coordinate your child’s care and work to make sure their new kidney continues to function well.

  2. 02.
    Waiting period

    You will learn if your child is recommended for a living donor transplant and will be placed on the national waiting list for a deceased donor transplant as needed. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) operates this list. UNOS matches organs to patients based on age, blood type, weight and waiting time. While your family waits, your child will have regular visits with the UW Health pediatric kidney transplant team. Our team monitors your child’s kidney function and overall health. We will continue to provide support and education.

    United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
  3. 03.

    If your child is waiting for a deceased donor kidney, we will call you when a kidney match comes for your child. This call can come at any time. You will be asked to come to the American Family Children’s Hospital within a few hours. The surgery takes about 3 hours. Your child will be in the hospital for five to seven days following their transplant surgery. Our pediatric kidney transplant team will teach you about their new medications, care needs and plans for their follow-up visits.

    Learn more
  4. 04.
    Follow-up care

    Your child will have a lifetime of care to protect their new kidney. During the first year, there will be many visits to the UW Health Kids kidney transplant clinic. We will take blood for testing and perform other tests as needed to study how well the new kidney is working. At first, tests will be three times a week. In time they will decrease to once a month. Your child’s first visit happens about two weeks after they leave the hospital. We want to make sure your child’s kidney continues to work well so they can lead a healthy life.

Stay connected

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Meet our team

Our team of experts

Your child deserves compassionate, skilled care. We want you to be confident you are working with one of the nation’s best pediatric kidney transplant teams. We work with your child and your family to make sure the care we deliver is customized to your needs.

Your child’s pediatric kidney transplant team includes experts in pediatric nephrology (kidney care), living donation and pediatric kidney transplantation. You will work with pediatric transplant social workers, pharmacists, financial counselors and other transplant experts to get the support you need throughout your child’s transplant journey.

Our team provides education to you, your child and your other support team members. Every child has a nurse coordinator that works with the family to ensure all healthcare needs are appropriately managed throughout their life. As part of an academic medical center, our commitment to research and education are important to your child’s success.


Top-ranked care close to you

American Family Children's Hospital

The jewel of our services for kids is our beautiful children’s hospital. Themed “All things Wisconsin,” our hospital creates a warm welcome to children and families from Wisconsin, the nation and beyond.

Learn more

Patient stories

Little kidney patients with big futures

Lyla Cola smiling and holding a stuffed plush kidney toy.
Pediatric kidney transplantLyla receives donated kidney from her preschool teacher
Lyla Carreyn may be the only member of her family who has undergone kidney transplant surgery.
Jara Rodriguez
Pediatric kidney transplantKidney transplant saves Jara's life
As a mother, Mixi would do anything for her 11-year-old daughter Jara. She’s used to being able to fix things for her—so when a major health problem came along in 2020 that she couldn’t fix, she felt helpless.
Two-year-old Kingston and his dad standing in the hospital
Pediatric kidney transplantKingston's kidney transplant journey
Tommy Wraggs’ “daddy instincts” kicked in when he noticed a bulge in his 3-month-old son Kingston’s abdomen in January 2018.
Charlie Van Swol wearing a camoflauge t-shirt and glasses
Pediatric kidney transplantCharlie Van Swol pediatric kidney transplant
When Megan Van Swol was 30 weeks pregnant with her son Charlie, doctors considered her pregnancy high risk because she didn’t have much amniotic fluid in her uterus. During an ultrasound, a specialist couldn’t find Charlie’s kidneys, but he told her not to worry about it.
Annika Wyant and her mother, Janna, sitting in grass in front of a tree trunk
Pediatric kidney transplantAnnika Wyant pediatric kidney transplant
Annika Wyant really doesn’t like needles. Or shots. Or anything related to medical procedures that might result in something sharp contacting her skin.
Kym Pfister holding her 2-year-old-son, Gus, in front of a tree trunk
Pediatric kidney transplantMom gives baby her own kidney to save his life
Kym Pfister carried her son, Gus, for 35 weeks before he was born. Now, the 2-year-old carries a piece of his mom inside him—her kidney, which she donated to him when he was 15 months old.
Smiling child with sign reading UW Health Kids
UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.

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