Clinical UM Guideline
Subject: Kidney Transplantation
Guideline #: CG-TRANS-02 Publish Date: 04/12/2023
Status: Reviewed Last Review Date: 02/16/2023

This document addresses kidney transplantation, involving the removal of the kidney from a deceased or living donor with the implantation into a single recipient.

Note: Please see the following related transplant documents for additional information:

Clinical Indications

Note: Members must meet the clinical indications as well as the general individual selection criteria for the transplantation to be considered medically necessary.

Medically Necessary:

Kidney transplantation from a deceased or a living donor is considered medically necessary for selected individuals with end stage renal disease*. The clinical indications leading to end stage renal disease include, but are not limited to, one of the conditions listed below.

*Note: See Definition section for further information on end stage renal disease.

Clinical Indications:

Repeat transplant due to acute or chronic graft failure is considered medically necessary.

Simultaneous Liver Kidney Transplantation
Kidney transplant as part of a simultaneous liver kidney (SLK) transplantation is considered medically necessary when criteria for liver transplantation are met and when one of the following are met:

Not Medically Necessary:

Kidney transplantation for conditions other than end stage renal disease is considered not medically necessary.

Kidney transplantation as part of a simultaneous liver kidney (SLK) transplant is considered not medically necessary, if one of the above SLK criteria is not met.

Note: For multi-organ transplant requests, criteria must be met for each organ requested. In those situations, an individual may present with a concurrent medical condition which may be considered an exclusion or a comorbidity that would preclude a successful outcome, but would be treated with the additional organ transplant. Such cases will be reviewed on an individual basis for coverage determination to assess the member’s candidacy for transplantation.

General Individual Selection Criteria

In addition to having one of the clinical indications above, the member must not have a contraindication as defined by the American Society of Transplantation in Guidelines for the Referral and Management of Patients Eligible for Solid Organ Transplantation (2001) listed below.*

Absolute Contraindications- for Transplant Recipients include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Metastatic cancer
  2. Ongoing or recurring infections that are not effectively treated
  3. Serious cardiac or other ongoing insufficiencies that create an inability to tolerate transplant surgery
  4. Serious conditions that are unlikely to be improved by transplantation as life expectancy can be finitely measured
  5. Demonstrated patient noncompliance, which places the organ at risk by not adhering to medical recommendations
  6. Potential complications from immunosuppressive medications are unacceptable to the patient
  7. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (diagnosis based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] definition of CD4 count, 200cells/mm3) unless the following are noted:
    1. CD4 count greater than 200cells/mm3 for greater than 6 months
    2. HIV-1 RNA undetectable
    3. On stable anti-retroviral therapy greater than 3 months
    4. No other complications from AIDS (for example, opportunistic infection, including aspergillus, tuberculosis, coccidioidomycosis, resistant fungal infections, Kaposi’s sarcoma or other neoplasm)
    5. Meeting all other criteria for kidney transplantation

*Steinman, Theodore, et al. Guidelines for the Referral and Management of Patients Eligible for Solid Organ Transplantation. Transplantation. 2001; 71 (9):1189-1204.


The following codes for treatments and procedures applicable to this document are included below for informational purposes. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.

When services may be Medically Necessary when criteria are met:




Anesthesia for extraperitoneal procedures in lower abdomen, including urinary tract; renal transplant (recipient)


Donor nephrectomy (including cold preservation); from cadaver donor, unilateral or bilateral


Donor nephrectomy (including cold preservation); open from living donor


Backbench standard preparation of cadaver donor renal allograft prior to transplantation, including dissection and removal of perinephric fat, diaphragmatic and retroperitoneal attachments, excision of adrenal gland, and preparation of ureter(s), renal vein(s), and renal artery(s), ligating branches, as necessary


Backbench standard preparation of living donor renal allograft (open or laparoscopic) prior to transplantation, including dissection and removal of perinephric fat and preparation of ureter(s), renal vein(s), and renal artery(s), ligating branches, as necessary


Backbench reconstruction of cadaver or living donor renal allograft prior to transplantation; venous anastomosis, each


Backbench reconstruction of cadaver or living donor renal allograft prior to transplantation; arterial anastomosis, each


Backbench reconstruction of cadaver or living donor renal allograft prior to transplantation; ureteral anastomosis, each


Recipient nephrectomy


Renal allotransplantation, implantation of graft; without recipient nephrectomy


Renal allotransplantation, implantation of graft; with recipient nephrectomy


Laparoscopy, surgical; donor nephrectomy (including cold preservation), from living donor



ICD-10 Procedure



Transplantation of right kidney, allogeneic, open approach


Transplantation of right kidney, syngeneic, open approach


Transplantation of left kidney, allogeneic, open approach


Transplantation of left kidney, syngeneic, open approach



ICD-10 Diagnosis



All diagnoses

When services are Not Medically Necessary:
For the procedure codes listed above when criteria are not met or for situations designated in the Clinical Indications section as not medically necessary.

Discussion/General Information

Approximately 37 million Americans were reported to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), with nearly 118,000 requiring initiation of treatment for kidney failure known as end stage renal disease (ESRD) each year (CDC, 2021). There was a steady rise in the rate of ESRD from 1980 to 2011; the incident rate of ESRD has started to decline. As of December 2021, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) reported that there were 97,958 Americans on the wait list for kidney transplantation and, in 2020, a total of 22,817 kidney transplants were performed (OPTN, 2021). According to data from the OPTN, for individuals receiving primary kidney transplants between 2008 and 2015, the 1-, 3- and 5-year survival rates were 97.1%, 92.9% and 86.3%, respectively.

A kidney transplant involves the surgical removal of a kidney from a deceased or living donor and implantation into a recipient. A donor left kidney is usually transplanted to the right iliac fossa with the renal artery anastomosed end-to-end to the hypogastric artery and the renal vein end-to-side to the common iliac vein. The ureter is implanted into the bladder and (under special conditions) a uretero-ureteral anastomosis or ureteropyelostomy may be performed.

Hepatorenal syndrome is a severe complication of liver cirrhosis or other severe liver disease. Features of hepatorenal syndrome are renal dysfunction caused by abnormalities in the arterial circulation and the vasoactive systems, resulting in renal vasoconstriction and renal insufficiency. There are two types of hepatorenal syndrome. Type I hepatorenal syndrome occurs when renal function is rapidly reduced and has an ominous prognosis which is usually reversed by liver transplantation. Type II hepatorenal syndrome occurs when renal failure does not progress rapidly. It can be quite difficult to distinguish these two conditions in individuals with severe liver disease. Liver transplantation is the recognized treatment for hepatorenal syndrome (Davis, 2005; Marik, 2006).

Concern has been raised since the introduction of the MELD (model for end-stage liver disease) prioritization for liver transplant that some recipients that undergo combined liver and kidney transplantation may have reversible renal failure. To address this issue, the American Society of Transplantation and American Society of Transplant Surgeons met in March 2006 to review post-MELD data on the impact of renal function on liver waitlist and transplant outcomes and the result of simultaneous liver kidney transplantation. This committee issued a consensus statement with regard to simultaneous liver-kidney (SLK) transplantation summarized below (Davis, 2007):

The 2020 Kidney Disease Improving Clinical Outcomes (KDIGO) clinical practice guideline on evaluation and management of candidates for kidney transplantation, developed by an international group of experts, recommended that individuals with chronic kidney disease who are expected to reach end-state kidney disease be considered for kidney transplantation, except for individuals with the following conditions:

In addition, the KDIGO guideline recommends that kidney transplant evaluation be delayed for individuals with the following conditions until they have been satisfactorily managed:

In 2017, United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) implemented policy changes for SLK transplantation based on changes the UNOS/Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) board recommended. The decision was made based on subjective criteria to implement the new SLK allocation policy to standardize utilization for SLK. Individuals meeting the SLK allocation policy are defined based on the following criteria: sustained kidney injury with estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) < 60 mL/min for 90 days or more with a final eGFR <30 mL/min.  (UNOS, 2022)

Controlled HIV infection is not considered a contraindication to kidney transplant (Chadban, 2020). In 2019, Zheng and colleagues published a meta-analysis of studies on outcomes after kidney transplantation in HIV-positive individuals. The meta-analysis included 27 cohort studies and 1670 case series published between July 2003 and May 2018. The authors found a pooled 1-year survival rate of 97% and a 5-year survival rate of 94%.


Allotransplantation: The transfer of cells, tissues, or whole organs from one individual to another within the same species.

Chronic renal disease: The permanent loss of kidney function.

End stage renal disease: Persistent decline in renal function as documented by falling creatinine clearance in an individual diagnosed with a renal disease whose natural history is progression to renal impairment requiring current or impending renal replacement (dialysis or transplant).

Nephropathy: Refers to damage or disease of the kidney.


Peer Reviewed Publications:

  1. Bleyer AJ, Donaldson LA, McIntosh M, et al. Relationship between underlying renal disease and renal transplantation outcome. Am J Kidney Dis. 2001; 37(6):1152-1161.
  2. Cecka JM. The UNOS Scientific Renal Transplant Registry - 2000. Clin Transpl. 2000:1-18.
  3. Davis CL. Impact of pretransplant renal failure: when is listing for kidney-liver indicated? Liver Transpl. 2005; 11(11 Suppl 2):S35-S44.
  4. Chadban SJ, Ahn C, Axelrod DA et al. KDIGO Clinical Practice Guideline on the Evaluation and Management of Candidates for Kidney Transplantation. Transplantation. 2020; 104(4S1 Suppl 1):S11-S103.
  5. Davis C, Feng S, Sung R, et al. Simultaneous liver-kidney transplantation: Evaluation to decision making. Am J Transplant. 2007; 7(7):1702-1709.
  6. Gjertson DW, Cecka JM. Determinants of long-term survival of pediatric kidney grafts reported to the United Network for Organ Sharing kidney transplant registry. Pedatr Transplant. 2001; 5(1):5-15.,
  7. Gjertson DW, Cecka JM. Living unrelated donor kidney transplantation. Kidney Int. 2000; 58(2):491-498.
  8. Ishitani M, Isaacs R, Norwood V, et al. Predictors of graft survival in pediatric living-related kidney transplant recipients. Transplantation. 2000; 70(2):288-292.
  9. Krishnan N, Higgins R, Short A, et al. Kidney transplantation significantly improves patient and graft survival irrespective of BMI: a cohort study. Am J Transplant. Sep 2015; 15(9):2378-2386.
  10. Marik PE, Wood K, Starzl TE. The course of type 1 hepato-renal syndrome post liver transplantation. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2006; 21(2):478-482.
  11. Martínez-Vaquera S, Navarro Cabello MD, López-Andreu M, et al. Outcomes in renal transplantation with expanded-criteria donors. Transplant Proc. 2013; 45(10):3595-3598.
  12. Pieloch D, Dombrovskiy V, Osband AJ, et al. Morbid obesity is not an independent predictor of graft failure or patient mortality after kidney transplantation. J Ren Nutr. 2014; 24(1):50-57.
  13. Steinman T, Becker BN, Frost AE, et al. Guidelines for the referral and management of patients eligible for solid organ transplantation. Transplantation. 2001; 71(9):1189-1204.
  14. Tejani A, Sullivan EK. Do six-antigen-matched cadaver donor kidneys provide better graft survival to children compared with one-haploidentical living-related donor transplants? Pediatr Transplant. 2000; 4(2):140-145.
  15. Zheng X, Gong L, Xue W, Zeng S, Xu Y, Zhang Y, Hu X. Kidney transplant outcomes in HIV-positive patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. AIDS Res Ther. 2019;16(1):37.

Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:

  1. American Society of Nephrology. Available at: Accessed on November 14, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National chronic kidney disease basics.  Last reviewed August 19, 2021. Available at:  Accessed on November 14, 2022.
  3. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. National Data. Available at: Accessed on November 14, 2022.
  4. United Network for Organ Sharing. Available at: Accessed on November 14, 2022.

Hepatorenal Syndrome
Kidney Transplantation
Renal Allotransplantation
Renal Transplantation
Transplantation, Kidney







Medical Policy & Technology Assessment Committee (MPTAC) review. Updated Discussion/General Information, Definitions and References sections.



MPTAC review. Clarified MN clinical indication, added note referring to Definition section for additional information on end stage renal disease. Updated Discussion/General Information and References sections.



MPTAC review. Updated Discussion/General Information and References sections. Reformatted coding section.



MPTAC review. Updated Discussion/General Information and References sections.



MPTAC review. Updated Discussion/General Information and References sections.



MPTAC review. Updated Background and References sections.



MPTAC review. The document header wording updated from “Current Effective Date” to “Publish Date.” Updated Background and References sections.



MPTAC review. Updated formatting in clinical indications section. Updated references.



MPTAC review. Defined abbreviation in both medically necessary and not medically necessary statements. Updated Discussion, References. Removed ICD-9 codes from Coding section.



MPTAC review. Updated Description, Discussion and References.



MPTAC review. Updated References and Websites.



MPTAC review. Updated Discussion, References and Websites.



MPTAC review. Updated References, Coding and Websites.



MPTAC review. Clarified Simultaneous Liver Kidney Transplantation medically necessary clinical indication criteria. Updated References and Websites.



MPTAC review. Place of service removed and references updated.



MPTAC review. Clarified not medically necessary statement for kidney transplantation as part of a simultaneous liver kidney transplant. References updated.



MPTAC review. Added kidney transplantation as part of a simultaneous liver kidney transplant is considered not medically necessary, if any of the above clinical criteria are not met.



MPTAC review. References updated.



MPTAC review. Document TRANS.00032 converted into a clinical UM guideline.



MPTAC review. Definitions added. References updated.



MPTAC review. Revision based on Pre-merger Anthem and Pre-merger WellPoint Harmonization.

Pre-Merger Organizations

Last Review Date

Document Number



Anthem, Inc.



Kidney Transplant

WellPoint Health Networks, Inc.



Kidney Transplantation






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