Anemia in children after transplantation: etiology and the effect of immunosuppressive therapy on erythropoiesis

Pediatr Transplant. 2003 Aug;7(4):253-64. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-3046.2003.00042.x.


Anemia in children after renal transplantation is more common than previously appreciated. Multiple factors appear to play roles in the development of post-transplant anemia, the most common of which is absolute and/or functional iron deficiency anemia. Most experts recommend that iron limited anemias in transplant patients should be diagnosed using the same criteria as for chronic renal failure patients. Serum erythropoietin (EPO) levels are expected to normalize after a successful renal transplantation with a normal kidney function, yet both EPO deficiency and resistance have been reported. While no large controlled trials comparing the effect of different immunosuppressive agents on erythropoiesis after transplantation have been performed, generalized bone marrow suppression attributable to azathioprine (AZA), mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), tacrolimus, antithymocyte preparations has been reported. Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) occurs rarely after transplantation and is characterized by the selective suppression of erythroid cells in the bone marrow. PRCA has been reported with the use of AZA, MMF, tacrolimus, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI), but not with cyclosporine (CSA) use. Post-transplant hemolytic uremic syndrome has been reported with orthoclone anti T-cell antibody (OKT3), CSA and tacrolimus therapy. Viral infections including cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus and human parvovirus B19 have been reported to cause generalized marrow suppression. Management of severe anemia associated with immunosuppressive drugs generally requires lowering the dose, drug substitution or, when possible, discontinuation of the drug. Because this topic has been incompletely studied, our recommendation as to the best immunosuppressive protocol after renal transplantation remains largely dependent on the clinical response of the individual patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / etiology*
  • Anemia / physiopathology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Azathioprine / pharmacology
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Bone Marrow / drug effects
  • Child
  • Erythropoiesis / drug effects*
  • Erythropoiesis / physiology
  • Erythropoietin / blood
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Liver Transplantation* / immunology
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Tacrolimus / immunology
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Erythropoietin
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Azathioprine
  • Tacrolimus