BACKGROUND. Calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) have been the mainstay of immunosuppressive protocols in kidney transplantation over the past 20 years. However, in some recipients, the adverse effects of CNIs contribute to chronic allograft nephropathy and death with function-the two leading causes of late graft loss. Other recipients maintain stable graft function. METHODS. We studied the impact of continuing CNI-based immunosuppression in the second decade after kidney transplantation. From 1984 through 1996, a total of 1,263 patients underwent a primary kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota and received cyclosporine-based immunosuppression. Antibody induction was used only in deceased donor recipients. RESULTS. The actuarial 20-year patient survival rate was 38%; graft survival, 30%; and death-censored graft survival, 60%. The annual mean serum creatinine level for recipients whose grafts survived ≥1 year remained stable, although recipients with a history of ≥1 acute rejection episode had a higher serum creatinine level vs. recipients who were rejection-free. The annual mean calculated creatinine clearance was also stable over time. In addition, for recipients who were acute rejection-free, chronic allograft nephropathy/chronic rejection was only responsible for 9% of graft losses. CONCLUSIONS. Our study suggests that some kidney transplant recipients tolerate long-term CNI-based immunosuppression with stable creatinine levels. Identifying certain recipients' predisposition to CNI toxicity and individualizing immunosuppressive therapy may be important in order to improve long-term kidney function, while simultaneously preserving low short-term acute rejection rates.
- Kidney transplants