Background: Steroid-avoidance protocols have gained popularity in pediatric kidney transplant recipients at low immunologic risk. The long-term safety of steroid avoidance in children with immunologic risk factors remains unknown.
Methods: Pediatric kidney transplant recipients from 2004 to 2014 in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network database who received tacrolimus and mycophenolate immunosuppression were investigated. Propensity score matching was used to compare graft survival in 1624 children who received steroid avoidance with 1624 children who received steroid-based immunosuppression. The effect of steroid avoidance on graft failure among immunologic risk strata was estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression in this propensity score-matched cohort.
Results: It was observed that 5-year graft survival was mildly improved in children receiving steroid avoidance (84.8% versus 81.2%, P = 0.03). This improvement in graft survival occurred in the first 2 years following transplant, when the hazard ratio (HR) for allograft failure in children receiving steroid avoidance was 0.62 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.45-0.86]. In contrast, steroid avoidance was not associated with improved allograft survival during Years 2-10 following transplant (HR = 0.93; 95% CI 0.75-1.15). During this time period, HRs (95% CIs) for allograft failure within immunologic risk strata were not significantly different from the null value of 1: repeat kidney transplants, 1.84 (0.84-4.05); African-Americans, 1.02 (0.67-1.56); sensitized recipients, 1.24 (0.63-2.43); recipients of deceased donor kidneys, 1.02 (0.79-1.32); recipients of completely human leukocyte antigen-mismatched kidneys, 0.80 (0.47-1.37); and recipients with pretransplant glomerular disease, 0.94 (0.71-1.23).
Conclusions: In pediatric kidney transplant recipients receiving tacrolimus- and mycophenolate-based immunosuppression, steroid avoidance can be safely practiced in children with immunologic risk factors.
Keywords: graft survival; kidney transplantation; pediatrics; propensity score analysis; steroid avoidance.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ERA-EDTA. All rights reserved.