The changing causes of graft loss and death after kidney transplantation

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Background. The results of kidney transplantation have improved markedly over the last three decades. Despite this, patients still lose grafts and die. We sought to determine whether the causes of graft loss and death have changed over the last 30 years.Methods. We reviewed patients who underwent transplantation or who died between January 1, 1970 and December 31, 1999. We compared the causes of graft loss or death for three decades: 1970 to 1979, 1980 to 1989, and 1990 to 1999.Results. From January 1, 1970 to December 31, 1999, we performed 2501 kidney transplantations in 2225 patients. For the three periods, 210, 588, and 383 patients lost their grafts, respectively. Graft survival increased substantially. Graft loss occurred later after transplantation, with 36.0% losing grafts in the first year during 1970 to 1970, 22.8% during 1980 to 1989, and 11.4% during 1990 to 1999. Death with a functioning graft increased from 23.8% for 1970 to 1979 to 37.5% for 1990 to 1999. Concomitantly, rejection as a cause of graft loss fell from 65.7% for 1970 to 1979 to 44.6% for 1990 to 1999. Approximately two thirds of the patients who died after transplantation died with a functioning graft and one third died after returning to dialysis. Cardiac disease as a cause of death increased from 9.6% for 1970 to 1979 to 30.3% for 1990 to 1999. Deaths from cancer and stroke also increased significantly over the three decades from 1.2% and 2.4%, respectively, for 1970 to 1979, to 13.2% and 8.0%, respectively, for 1990 to 1999.Conclusions. The causes of graft loss and death have changed over the last three decades. By better addressing the main causes of death, cardiac disease, and stroke with better prevention, graft loss due to death with a functioning graft will be reduced.

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