Noncompliance with immunosuppressive medications in pediatric and adolescent patients receiving solid-organ transplants

Transplantation. 2004 Mar 15;77(5):778-82. doi: 10.1097/


Advances in knowledge in transplantation have improved 1-year renal allograft survival in all age groups of pediatric patients. However, the results from many studies have shown that the long-term allograft survival is least successful in adolescent recipients. The major cause of late graft failure in adolescents can be contributed in large measure to medication noncompliance. Medication noncompliance in teenagers has been shown to be more than four times greater in adolescents than in adults. The teenage years are a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. Important tasks during this transition include the development of an autonomous identity that progresses to full independence. However, the cognitive skills and intellectual maturation of adolescents are still limited, and this is particularly true in adolescents with chronic diseases. They have difficulty with abstract thinking, particularly the conceptualization of future consequences of present actions. This leads to characteristic risk-taking behaviors, including noncompliance with medical treatments. This transition is more intricate for adolescents with chronic illness because of their physical limitations. There are a number of strategies that are helpful in mitigating noncompliance. Adolescents must be dealt with directly. Previous noncompliant behaviors need to be acknowledged and dealt with, because studies show that noncompliance is a "stable" personality attribute that persists over time. Efforts should be made to choose medications that have the least side effects. Psychological and psychiatric conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder require early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment. It is necessary to build rapport with teenagers, and this should start before transplantation. A multidisciplinary approach with physicians, social workers, nurses, and transplant coordinators is an effective mean of enhancing compliance. These and other strategies outlined in this discussion will enable the adolescent to achieve good compliance rates and prevent graft loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Graft Rejection / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Treatment Refusal*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents