Background: Prolonged duration of delayed graft function (DGF) may be associated with adverse allograft outcomes, but the association between threshold duration of DGF, acute rejection and long-term allograft loss remains undefined. We aimed to determine the impact of DGF duration on allograft outcomes and to assess whether this association was mediated by acute rejection.
Methods: Using data from the Australian and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant Registry, Cox proportional modeling was used to determine the association between quartiles of DGF duration, acute rejection at 6 months and death-censored graft loss (DCGL). Mediation analysis was conducted to determine whether acute rejection was a causal intermediate between DGF and DCGL.
Results: Of 7668 deceased donor kidney transplants between 1997 and 2014, 1497 (19.5%) recipients experienced DGF requiring dialysis. The median (interquartile range) duration of DGF was 7 (9) days, with 25% requiring dialysis for 14 days or longer. Among recipients who had experienced a DGF duration of 1 to 4 days, the adjusted hazard ratio for duration of 5 to 7, 8 to 13, and 14 days or longer were 1.13 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83-1.55; P = 0.43), 1.44 (95% CI, 1.08-1.91; P = 0.013), and 1.99 (95% CI, 1.50-2.65; P < 0.001), respectively, for acute rejection; and were 1.10 (95% CI< 0.73-1.67; P = 0.64), 1.45 (95% CI, 1.00-2.11; P = 0.05) and 1.60 (95% CI, 1.10-2.31; P = 0.01), respectively, for DCGL. On average, 8% of the effects between DGF duration and DCGL were explained by acute rejection.
Conclusions: There was a direct dose-dependent effect between DGF duration and DCGL, with acute rejection explaining less than 10% of the effects between DGF duration and DCGL. Future research identifying other potential modifiable mediators that lies in the causal pathway between DGF duration and allograft loss is essential.