Transplants Treated Badly

Kidney transplant patients are at risk of arteriosclerosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A kidney transplant can save a patient's life. However, many patients can run into problems after getting a new organ. One of those health problems is narrowed arteries, a condition that may play a part in the rejection of transplanted kidneys.

Researchers found that the immune system sometimes reacts to a kidney transplant by making certain antibodies - which usually fight foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. These antibodies can cause the arteries that supply blood to the kidney to become narrow, which can lead to rejection of the new organ.

"After a kidney transplant, antibodies may reject the new organ."

Narrowed arteries - called arteriosclerosis - can damage kidneys. This can eventually lead to a total decline in kidney function, making a transplant ineffective.

"Kidney transplantation is not a cure but a treatment, and not without side effects," comments Laurie Reece, Executive Director of The Alliance for Paired Donation, a national organization that facilitates kidney transplants for incompatible donor-recipient pairs, and Texas Transplantation Society, a group of transplant physicians, surgeons, nurses and others who work in the field of organ or bone marrow transplantation.

Reece continues, "Recipients must be vigilant in taking their immunosuppressant medications so that they don't experience the problems described in [this research]. However, I must say that anecdotally, we hear of many more patients who do very well after kidney transplantation, and they would not go back to being tied to a dialysis machine three times a week. In fact, dialysis is not without problems too - it is well documented that many patients on dialysis develop cardiovascular disease."

In Depth

For their study, Gary S. Hill, of the Laboratoire d'Anatomie Pathologique, Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou, and colleagues looked at 99 patients who had received kidney transplants. Of those patients, 40 developed the antibodies that targeted their new kidneys. The researchers found:

  • Patients with the antibodies experienced a significant acceleration of arteriosclerosis between three and 12 months after transplant
  • Patients without the antibodies did not experience a statistically significant progression of arteriosclerosis
  • Arteriosclerosis was associated with:
    • peritubular capillary leukocytic infiltration (when white blood cells start to target the kidneys)
    • glomerulitis (inflammation of the glomerulus, the part of the kidney responsible for the first step of filtering blood)
    • kidney transplant rejection
    • interstitial inflammation (inflammation of the part of the kidney that recovers the stuff that is filtered by the kidney and puts it back in circulation)
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 19, 2011
Last Updated:
April 24, 2011