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Understanding the impact on mental health where there is a negative outcome following a kidney transplant

20 May 2024
Female wearing blue scrubs and a face mask next to a some hospital equipment
Emma Aitken from Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Ms Emma Aitken from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Glasgow has received an Andy Cole Fund Award clinical training fellowship of £5,300 to understand the impact that complications following a kidney transplant can have on the mental health of patients, families and surgeons. 

The problem

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a life-long condition that impacts all aspects of a person’s life, which means that mental health problems are common. A kidney transplant is usually a promising and positive experience, but in some cases, there can be unexpected problems such as early failure or rejection. These are referred to as adverse events (AEs). 

An AE can impact emotional wellbeing. Feelings of anger, depression and guilt have been reported in those who experienced AEs during or after bowel surgery, but at present, research does not exist for patients who experience AEs after a kidney transplant.  

The solution

To fill this gap in knowledge, Emma aims to better understand the impact of AEs on kidney transplant patients, families and surgeons, so that effective communication and targeted mental health support can be provided. The study will be conducted in three parts with patients and surgeons recruited from the West of Scotland Renal Transplant Unit.  

Firstly, to explore any negative feelings one year after transplant surgery, questionnaires will be completed by patients and their surgeons. One questionnaire will assess quality of life, and the other will look at regret. Asking the surgeons to complete the decision regret questionnaire will highlight any differences in opinion between patient and surgeon for further investigation.

In the second part of the study, Emma will conduct hour long, one-to-one interviews with patients who have experienced an AE, and their relatives, the results of which will later be used to make recommendations for support interventions.

Lastly, interviews will be conducted with surgeons whose patients have suffered from AEs. Here, the impact of these difficult situations on transplant surgeons will be investigated further by assessing their attitude to future decision-making.  

“Psychological support for people with kidney disease is lacking. This research will give patients and their families a voice in shaping the future of that care." Ms Emma Aitken  

What this might mean for patients

This work will help us to understand the concerns and challenges of patients who have experienced an AE, as well as the impact on their families and surgeons. By understanding individual patient experiences, the tailored support that is needed for patients and their healthcare providers who face these challenges can be developed.   

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