Renal transplant recipient attitudes toward steroid use and steroid withdrawal

Clin Transplant. 2003 Apr;17(2):135-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0012.2003.00034.x.


Although steroid avoidance and withdrawal in renal transplant recipients (RTR) are actively being evaluated by physicians, the attitudes of recipients toward steroid use have not been systematically studied in the modern era. We conducted a confidential written survey of single-organ adult RTR pertaining to prednisone-related side-effects. Recipients were asked which drug they felt maximized graft life, which drug they wished to avoid if graft life was unaffected, and which drug they had most compliant with. They also rated 16 common immunosuppressive-related side-effects on a Likert scale with 1 meaning complete disagreement and 10 complete agreement with their own prednisone-attributed experience. A comparison of responses based on RTR demographic characteristics was made by ANOVA or chi-square analysis with Bonferroni correction. The questionnaire was completed by 223 recipients, of whom 93% were primary recipients, 57% were cadaveric organ recipients, and 69% were white people, 7% black people, and 23% Asian people. Age at transplant, age at survey and time since transplant were 41.5 +/- 11, 47.5 +/- 11 and 6.0 +/- 5 yr, respectively. For the entire group, overall side-effect profile for prednisone was rated as 6.1 +/- 3 on the Likert scale, while efficacy was rated as 7.3 +/- 3. If offered monotherapy, 67% preferred a calcineurin-inhibitor (CI), 23% mycophenolate mofetil (MMF)/azathioprine (AZA), and 10% prednisone. When asked which drug they would like to discontinue, 19% chose CI, 16% MMF/AZA, and 65% prednisone. Most recipients felt that CI was the most efficacious drug (80%), followed by MMF/AZA (12%), and prednisone (8%). The side-effects reported as most common were unacceptable weight gain (5.8 +/- 3) and bone/joint disease (5.3 +/- 3). The least common side-effects were blood disorders (2.2 +/- 2) and cancer (2.3 +/- 2). Black people were more likely than non-black people to report developing diabetes (p = 0.02), blood disorders (p = 0.003) and headaches (p = 0.003) as a result of prednisone use. Males reported more liver damage (p = 0.01) while females reported more body fat (p = 0.01) and fluid retention (p = 0.006). RTR >5 yr post-transplant reported more infections (p = 0.008), skin/hair problems (p = 0.02), gastrointestinal irritation (p = 0.02), and bone disease (p = 0.02) compared with RTR <1 yr. Donor source and recipient age did not determine any responses. If given a 'risk-free' choice, the majority of recipients prefer withdrawal of steroids over other agents. Demographic data may be used to predict prednisone-related side-effects and guide steroid use in this population. Study designs related to steroid withdrawal should account for patient preferences in this context.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisone / adverse effects*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisone