Background: Transplant failure requires the consideration of numerous potential causes including rejection, acute tubular necrosis, infection, and recurrence of the original kidney disease. Kidney biopsy is generally required to approach these differential diagnoses. However, the histopathological findings on their own do not always lead to a definite diagnosis. Consequently, it is crucial to integrate them with clinical findings and patient history when discussing histopathological patterns of injury. The histopathologic finding of a membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) is one of the most challenging constellations since it does not refer to a specific disease entity but rather reflects a pattern of injury that is the result of many different causes. Whilst MPGN is occasionally classified as immune complex mediated, careful evaluation usually reveals an underlying disorder such as chronic infection, plasma cell dyscrasia, complement disorders, and autoimmune disease.
Case presentation: We describe the case of a 43-year-old woman who was referred to us because of a slowly rising serum creatinine 4 years after kidney transplantation. As in the native kidney, the biopsy revealed an MPGN pattern of injury. The cause of this finding had not been established prior to transplantation leading to a classification as idiopathic MPGN in the past. Further workup at the time of presentation and allograft failure revealed chronic infection of a ventriculoatrial shunt as the most probable cause.
Conclusion: This case underlines the fact that MPGN is not a disease but a histopathological description. Consequently, the causative disorder needs to be identified to avoid kidney failure and recurrence after transplantation.
Keywords: Kidney transplantation; Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis; Recurrence; Shunt nephritis.