African American kidney transplantation survival: the ability of immunosuppression to balance the inherent pre- and post-transplant risk factors

Drugs. 2009 Oct 22;69(15):2045-62. doi: 10.2165/11318570-000000000-00000.


Among organ transplant recipients, the African American population historically has received special attention. This is because secondary to their disposition to certain disease states, for example hypertension, an African American patient has a propensity to reach end-stage renal disease and require renal replacement earlier than a Caucasian patient. Regardless of the initiative to replace dialysis therapy with organ transplantation, the African American patient has many barriers to kidney transplantation, thus extending their time on dialysis and waiting time on the organ transplant list. These factors are among the many negative causes of decreased kidney graft survival, realized before kidney transplantation. Unfortunately, once the African American recipient receives a kidney graft, the literature documents that many post-transplant barriers exist which limit successful outcomes. The primary post-transplant barrier relates to designing proper immunosuppression protocols. The difficulty in designing protocols revolves around (i) altered genetic metabolism/lower absorption, (ii) increased immuno-active cytokines and (iii) detrimental effects of noncompliance. Based on the literature, dosing of immunosuppression must be aggressive and requires a diligent practitioner. Research has indicated that, despite some success with proven levels of immunosuppression, the African American recipient usually requires a higher 'dose per weight' regimen. However, even with aggressive immunosuppressant dosing, African Americans still have worse outcomes than Caucasian recipients. Additionally, many of the targeted sites of action that immunosuppression exerts its effects on have been found to be amplified in the African American population. Finally, noncompliance is the most discouraging inhibitor of long-term success in organ transplantation. The consequences of noncompliance are biased by ethnicity and affect the African American population more severely. All of these factors are discussed further in this review in the hope of identifying an ideal healthcare model for caring for the African American transplant recipient, from diagnosing chronic kidney disease through to successful kidney graft outcomes. An indepth review of the literature is described and organized in a fashion that highlights all of the issues affecting success in African Americans. The compilation of the literature in this review will enable the reader to get closer to understanding the caveats of kidney transplantation in the African American patient, but falls short of delivering an actual 'equation' for post-transplant care in an African American kidney recipient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Cadaver
  • Calcineurin / genetics*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Graft Rejection / epidemiology*
  • Graft Rejection / mortality
  • Graft Survival*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression / mortality*
  • Kidney / immunology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Kidney Transplantation / mortality*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / economics
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Calcineurin