The evolution of renal transplantation in clinical practice: for better, for worse?

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Kidney transplantation is the optimal form of renal replacement therapy for most patients with end-stage renal disease. Attempting to improve graft and recipient survival remains challenging in clinical practice.


To identify the factors that have significantly changed over the past four decades and assess their impact on renal transplant outcomes.


Retrospective review of all renal transplant procedures in a single UK region.


All 1346 renal transplant procedures performed between 1 January 1967 and 31 December 2006 were reviewed. Clinical data, histological reports and outcomes were available from a prospectively recorded database. The study period was divided into four decades to assess the changes in renal transplantation over time.


Significant changes that have occurred include an increase in donor and recipient ages, a greater proportion of recipients with diabetic nephropathy, a longer wait before the first transplant procedure, a fall in the incidence and impact of acute rejection, a smaller proportion of deaths due to cardiovascular disease, (P < 0.001 for all) and a trend to increased deaths from malignancy (P=0.06) over time. In multivariate analysis, death censored graft survival was significantly influenced by the era of transplantation, donor and recipient ages, living vs. deceased donor status, and histological evidence of acute rejection, chronic allograft nephropathy, or disease recurrence. Significant factors in recipient survival were the era of transplantation, recipient age, a primary renal diagnosis of diabetic nephropathy or unspecified chronic renal failure, and biopsy proven acute rejection.


There have been major changes in the clinical practice related to renal transplantation over the past four decades; some have been beneficial and others detrimental to survival. Regular review of outcomes is essential to guide renal services development and maximize graft and recipient survival.

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