Background: The safety and efficacy of early steroid withdrawal or avoidance in patients receiving a kidney transplant (KT) are controversial.
Methods: We performed a systematic review and a meta-analysis of the randomized controlled studies about steroid avoidance or withdrawal after a few days in patients receiving a KT and treated with antibody induction and cyclosporine (CsA) or tacrolimus (Tac) plus mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (nine available studies and 1934 participants).
Results: Death and graft loss (including or excluding death with function) were similar in steroid avoidance and control patients, with no differences between CsA and Tac studies. After steroid avoidance, acute rejection was more frequent than conventional steroid use in CsA trials [risk ratios (RR) 1.59, 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) 1.01-2.49] but not when Tac was used (RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.79-1.42). Steroid avoidance was associated with less frequent new-onset diabetes mellitus, but this decrease was only evident with CsA (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.30-0.98), whereas this difference was not significant analysing Tac studies (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.32-1.77). Despite this trend, the corresponding interaction tests were not statistically significant (P = 0.140 and P = 0.535, for acute rejection and new-onset diabetes mellitus, respectively). Serum creatinine, creatinine clearance, mean blood pressure, serum cholesterol and serum triglycerides were similar in both groups.
Conclusions: Steroid avoidance or early withdrawal within the first 2 weeks is safe in KT recipients receiving induction with anti-interleukin-2 receptor antibodies or thymoglobulin and a drug regimen based on calcineurin inhibitor and MMF. However, the real benefits remain unclear.