Are wound complications after a kidney transplant more common with modern immunosuppression?

Transplantation. 2001 Dec 27;72(12):1920-3. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200112270-00009.


Background: The most common surgical complication after a kidney transplant is likely related to the wound. The purpose of this analysis was to determine the incidence of, and risk factors for, wound complications (e.g., infections, hernias) in kidney recipients and to assess whether newer immunosuppressive drugs increase the risk for such complications.

Methods: Between January 1, 1984 and September 30, 1998, we performed 2013 adult kidney transplants. Of these 2013 recipients, 97 (4.8%) developed either a superficial or a deep wound infection. Additionally, 73 (3.6%) recipients developed either a fascial dehiscence or a hernia of the wound. We used univariate and multivariate techniques to determine significant risk factors and outcomes.

Results: Mean time to development of a superficial infection (defined as located above the fascia) was 11.9 days posttransplant; to development of a deep infection (defined as located below the fascia), 39.2 days; and to development of a hernia or fascial dehiscence, 12.8 months. By multivariate analysis, the most significant risk factor for a superficial or deep wound infection was obesity (defined as body mass index>30 kg/m2) (RR=4.4, P=0.0001). Other significant risk factors were a urine leak posttransplant, any reoperation through the transplant incision, diabetes, and the use of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (vs. azathioprine) for maintenance immunosuppression (RR=2.43, P=0.0001). Significant risk factors for a hernia or fascial dehiscence were any reoperation through the transplant incision, increased recipient age, obesity, and the use of MMF (vs. azathioprine) for maintenance immunosuppression (RR=3.54, P=0.0004). Use of antibody induction and treatment for acute rejection were not significant risk factors for either infections or hernias. Death-censored graft survival was lower in recipients who developed a wound infection (vs. those who did not); it was not lower in recipients who developed an incisional hernia or facial dehiscence (vs. those who did not).

Conclusions: Despite immunosuppression including chronic steroids, the incidence of wound infections, incisional hernias, and fascial dehiscence is low in kidney recipients. As with other types of surgery, the main risk factors for postoperative complications are obesity, reoperation, and increased age. However, in kidney recipients, use of MMF (vs. azathioprine) is an additional risk factor -one that potentially could be altered, especially in high-risk recipients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hernia / chemically induced
  • Hernia / epidemiology
  • Hernia / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression / adverse effects*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycophenolic Acid / adverse effects
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / chemically induced
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / etiology*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / chemically induced
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Mycophenolic Acid