Neurologic complications in renal transplantation

Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;121:1245-55. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-7020-4088-7.00084-5.


Neurologic complications following kidney transplant are more common than in the general population with the reported incidence around 10-21%. Need for multiple drugs, decreased cellular immunity, accelerated atherosclerotic disease, and frequency of metabolic abnormalities are the most common predisposing factors for neurologic abnormalities. Neurologic side-effects of calcineurin inhibitors range from mild tremors to paraplegia or posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) and are generally reversible by lowering the dose or complete discontinuation of the drug when possible. Clinical presentation of central nervous system infection in transplant recipients can be different from the normal population as the anti-inflammatory effects of immunosuppressive therapy may obscure signs of meningeal inflammation and changes in the level of consciousness may be subtle. Bacterial infections remain the most common infections but unusual pathogens figure prominently in the differential diagnosis. The most frequent malignancies of the brain are lymphomas and metastatic tumors which are for the most part, de novo malignancies from immunosuppression. Decreasing immunosuppression is almost always a part of treating malignancy. The prevalence of stroke is reported to be around 8% with age>40 years, diabetic nephropathy as the underlying cause of end-stage kidney disease, and peripheral vascular disease being the strongest predictors.

Keywords: Kidney transplant; West Nile virus; calcineurin inhibitors; lymphoma; posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome; toxoplamosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Infections / physiopathology
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / chemically induced
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy


  • Immunosuppressive Agents