Background: In the UK, kidneys are exchanged between centres on the basis of matching for HLA. We analysed various factors that might affect graft outcome to establish whether exchange of kidneys on this basis remains valid.
Methods: 6363 primary cadaveric renal transplants carried out in 23 centres in the UK between 1986 and 1993 were used in the analysis. 6338 (99.6%) patients who underwent transplantation were followed up at 1 year. 5-year follow-up data were available for 2907 (97.8%) of the 2972 patients who survived to 5 years. We made random checks to validate the data. A multifactorial analysis with Cox's proportional hazards models was used to analyse factors that had a possible effect on graft outcome. To ensure that the analysis of matching was constant during the 8-year study, our analysis was based on the HLA antigens used for organ exchange (11 A locus antigens, 27 B locus antigens, and 12 DR locus antigens). We assessed overall outcome at 5 years and during three periods after transplantation at: 0-3 months, 3-36 months, and after 36 months.
Findings: The following factors were significantly associated with graft outcome in the multifactorial analysis: year of graft, age of donor, age of recipient, whether the recipient had diabetes, cause of donor's death, cold ischaemic time, transport of kidneys, transplant centre, and matching for HLA. The best outcome was achieved with kidneys that had no mismatches at HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-DR loci (000 mismatches). The next most favourable outcome was achieved with one mismatch at either A or B loci or one mismatch at both the A and B , but no mismatch at the DR locus (100, 010, or 110 mismatches). Age of the donor and recipient had a significant effect on transplant outcome: older age was associated with increased risk of graft failure.
Interpretation: Various factors affect the outcome of primary cadaveric renal transplantation, particularly the age of the donor and the recipient. However, the effect of matching for HLA remains a strong one and fully justifies the continuing policy in the UK of exchanging kidneys on the basis of HLA matching, especially to recipients when there is a 000 mismatch for HLA between donor and recipient. On the basis of this analysis, a new allocation scheme for kidneys was introduced in the UK in 1998. During the first 9 months of the scheme, there has been a doubling of the number of HLA-000 mismatched kidneys transplanted.