The first kidney transplant took place between twins in Boston in 1954. Since then, kidney grafting progressed to the point where it became overwhelmingly the treatment of end-­stage renal failure.

The operation itself is straightforward. Since there is rarely any need to remove own kidneys, the donor organ is cradled within the pelvis. About half the kidneys work immediately; others begin to function within a week or two. Survival rates for transplant are quoted as 85 percent at one year and 70 percent at five years.

Kidneys can be taken from donors ranging from two years to 75 years of age and normally come from ventilated patients, but may also be recovered from other donors within one hour of death. Or, in rare cases, a kidney may be grafted from a living donor more than 18 years of age. Kidneys can be stored for up to 36 hours.