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Is it possible to have more than two kidneys?

Having more than two kidneys - is it possible? It seems like common sense: If someone receives a new kidney during a transplant, their old kidney is removed. While the remove-and-replace method is used for a heart or liver transplant, it’s not the case for a kidney transplant. Most kidney transplant recipients are walking around with at least three fist-sized kidneys, says Jon Hundley, M.D., a transplant surgeon at Piedmont Transplant Institute.

And if a person requires multiple transplant surgeries, he or she could be walking around with as many as three additional organs, bringing the total to five.

“Sometimes when we transplant young people, they wind up needing a transplant again later in life, and occasionally a third transplant. They’ll literally have five kidneys at once,” Dr. Hundley explains. “That always shocks people – they are surprised you can fit three new kidneys in,” he says.

Most kidney recipients receive only one organ at a time, but in some cases, two new kidneys are necessary.

“We will also occasionally [transplant] two kidneys in one person for various reasons or [perform] liver-kidney [surgery],” says Dr. Hundley. “People can be walking around with lots of extra parts.”

For more information on kidney transplantation, visit Piedmont Transplant Institute.

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