Approach to kidney transplant in sensitized potential transplant recipients

Exp Clin Transplant. 2012 Oct;10(5):419-27. doi: 10.6002/ect.2012.0136.


More than one-third of patients on waiting lists for kidney transplant are sensitized. Most have previously formed donor-specific and non-donor-specific serum antibodies and/or positive crossmatch by complement-dependent cytotoxity and/or flow cytometry. Two categories of alloantibodies include antibodies against major histocompatibility complex human leukocyte antigen class 1 and class 2 and antibodies against minor histocompatibility complex. A current positive crossmatch is an absolute contraindication for transplant. Positive historical panel reactive antibody and/or donor-specific antibodies (human leukocyte antigen and minor histocompatibility complex), even in the absence of a historical positive crossmatch, are associated with an increased risk for allosensitization, antibodymediated rejection, and accelerated graft failure. Desensitization protocols are numerous, complex, and expensive. It is recommended to perform a systematic determination of historical and current panel reactive antibody, donor-specific antibodies (human leukocyte antigen and minor histocompatibility complex), and crossmatch by the most sensitive assays. The risk of sensitization may be estimated from the combined results of the crossmatch with the donor and those of the recipient's panel reactive antibody and donor-specific antibodies at baseline. The adoption of a scoring system for risk stratification may facilitate the task of organ allocation for sensitized patients. Recipients with an estimated sensitization risk ≥ high may be referred preferably to the national waiting priority list and informed about the financial and the medical risks that may incur with future transplant. Sensitized patients at high risk for antibody-mediated rejection may benefit from a structured monitoring process involving systematic and regular immunologic, histologic, and functional assessments of the graft after transplant. We recommend the adoption and regular updating of these approaches to ensure safe and appropriate therapeutic standards in these sensitized patients, in accordance with best clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Testing*
  • Humans
  • Isoantibodies / immunology*
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology*
  • Kidney Transplantation / methods*
  • Tissue Donors


  • HLA Antigens
  • Isoantibodies