Although the introduction of cyclosporine-prednisone immunosuppression has improved early renal graft survival, chronic rejection remains a major cause of longterm graft dysfunction. This study retrospectively examined 69 cases of chronic rejection among 643 primary renal allograft recipients treated with cyclosporine-prednisone immunosuppression from July 1981 to October 1989. Chronic rejection was defined as a rejection episode diagnosed >90 days posttransplantation with characteristics of progressive nonacute renal function deterioration, confirmed, in most cases, by renal biopsy. This group was compared with an equal-sized matched cohort. Among cadaveric recipients, 61 of 456 patients (13.4%) displayed chronic rejection, whereas among living-related recipients, 8 of 187 patients (4.3%) developed chronic rejection. The average time from the date of transplantation to diagnosis of chronic rejection was 15 ± 14 months. One- and three-year graft survivals following diagnosis of chronic rejection were 51% (30/59) and 25% (13/51), respectively, compared with the cohort one- and three-year graft survivals of 98% (58/59) and 86% (32/37) at similar periods posttransplantation. HLA mismatch, PRA status, blood transfusion history, lipid levels, cyclosporine trough levels, incidence of prior acute rejection, and initial graft dysfunction were not significantly different between the chronic rejection group and the matched cohort. Hypertension and proteinuria were significantly associated with chronic rejection (P<0.001). Of 58 biopsies performed, findings solely consistent with chronic rejection were observed in 9 cases (15%) and 'acute upon chronic' rejection in 49 cases (83%). Treatment of acute concomitants improved the renal function in 43% (27/63) by the time of hospital discharge. Nonetheless, at 12 months the incidence of improved renal function eroded to 22% (13/59), suggesting that the benefit was relatively short-lived. Although the overall incidence of chronic rejection in this group of cyclosporine-prednisone-treated patients was lower than previous azathioprine-prednisone cohorts, the clinical presentation and progression of chronic rejection was similar. Additionally, the incidence of chronic rejection within this series was lower among living-related recipients versus cadaveric recipients of donor organs.
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