Risk Factors and Management of Leukopenia After Kidney Transplantation: A Single-Center Experience

Transplant Proc. 2021 Jun;53(5):1589-1598. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2021.04.011. Epub 2021 May 18.


Background: Leukopenia is a common complication after kidney transplantation. The etiology is multifactorial, with medication adverse effects and cytomegalovirus infection as main causes. Optimal strategies to prevent or treat posttransplant leukopenia remain unknown. We aimed to identify risk factors for leukopenia and to investigate the benefit of switching the immunosuppressive therapy to hydrocortisone as a continuous infusion.

Methods: We retrospectively evaluated all patients with leukopenia after kidney transplantation between 2007 and 2017 at our center relative to age- and sex-matched controls.

Results: Leukopenia was associated with the degree of rejection therapy before leukopenia, the immunosuppressive therapy before transplantation, and an induction therapy with rabbit antithymocyte globulin. Patients with leukopenia exhibited increased mortality, an increased incidence of bacterial and viral infections, and more acute rejections. Switching to hydrocortisone as a continuous infusion in patients with severe leukopenia decreased the duration of leukopenia and the incidence of subsequent viral infections, especially with cytomegalovirus.

Conclusion: Leukopenia is a risk factor for infectious complications and mortality, and it is associated with acute rejection. Switching immunosuppressive therapy to hydrocortisone as a continuous infusion is a safe approach to reduce the duration of leukopenia and the incidence of viral infections.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / therapy
  • Drug Substitution
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / immunology
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / methods*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Leukopenia / drug therapy*
  • Leukopenia / immunology
  • Leukopenia / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / drug therapy*
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Immunosuppressive Agents