Background: Concern exists that prednisone-free maintenance immunosuppression in kidney transplant recipients will increase acute and/or chronic rejection.
Methods: From October 1, 1999, through February 29, 2004, at our center, 477 kidney transplant recipients (341 living donor, 136 cadaver) discontinued prednisone on postoperative day 6, per our protocol. Immunosuppression consisted of polyclonal antibody (Thymoglobulin) for 5 days, prednisone intraoperatively and for 5 days, a calcineurin inhibitor, and either sirolimus or mycophenolate mofetil. We compared outcome with that of historical controls who did not discontinue prednisone.
Results: The recipients on prednisone-free maintenance immunosuppression had excellent 4-year actuarial patient survival (92%), graft survival (90%), acute rejection-free graft survival (86%), and chronic rejection-free graft survival (95%). The mean serum creatinine level (+/- SD) at 1 year was 1.6 +/- 0.6; at 4 years, 1.6 +/- 0.6. We noted that 8% of recipients had cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease; 4.5%, fractures; 2.8%, cataracts; 1%, posttransplant diabetes; 0.2%, avascular necrosis; 0.2%, posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease; and 0%, polyomavirus. In all, 85% of kidney recipients with functioning grafts remain prednisone-free as of April 1, 2004. As compared with historical controls, the recipients on prednisone-free maintenance immunosuppression had better patient (P = 0.02) and graft survival (P < 0.0001) and lower rates of acute (P = 0.0004) and chronic (P = 0.02) rejection. In addition, they had a significantly lower rate of CMV disease (P < 0.0001), cataracts (P < 0.0001), posttransplant diabetes (P < 0.0001), and avascular necrosis (P = 0.0003).
Conclusions: Prednisone-related side effects can be minimized without maintenance immunosuppression; our prednisone-free recipients do not have increased acute or chronic rejection.