Background: Recurrent glomerulonephritis is a known cause of renal allograft loss; however, the incidence of this complication is poorly defined. We determined the incidence, timing, and relative importance of allograft loss due to the recurrence of glomerulonephritis.
Methods: A total of 1505 patients with biopsy-proved glomerulonephritis received a primary renal transplant in Australia from 1988 through 1997. Recurrence was confirmed by renal biopsy. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the 10-year incidence of allograft failure due to recurrent glomerulonephritis, and this incidence was compared with the incidence of acute rejection, chronic rejection, and death with a functioning allograft. Characteristics of the recipients and donors were examined as potential predictors of recurrence.
Results: Allograft loss due to the recurrence of glomerulonephritis occurred in 52 recipients, with a 10-year incidence of 8.4 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 5.9 to 12.0). The type of glomerulonephritis, the sex of the recipient, and the peak level of panel-reactive antibodies were independent predictors of the risk of recurrence. Recurrence was the third most frequent cause of allograft loss at 10 years, after chronic rejection and death with a functioning allograft. Despite the effect of recurrence, the overall 10-year incidence of allograft loss was similar among transplant recipients with biopsy-proved glomerulonephritis and among those with other causes of renal failure (45.4 percent [95 percent confidence interval, 40.9 to 50.2] vs. 45.8 percent [95 percent confidence interval, 42.3 to 49.3], P=0.09).
Conclusions: Recurrence is an important cause of allograft loss for those with renal failure due to glomerulonephritis. No risk factors for recurrence were identified that warrant altering the approach to transplantation. However, accurate estimates of risk can now be provided to potential recipients of renal allografts.