Corticosteroids in kidney transplant recipients. Safety issues and timing of discontinuation

Drug Saf. 1995 Sep;13(3):145-56. doi: 10.2165/00002018-199513030-00002.


Corticosteroids have played a key role in the immunosuppression of organ transplantation. Unfortunately, the extensive use of these agents has resulted in disabling and life-threatening adverse effects in many patients. The advent of concomitant corticosteroid/cyclosporin regimens has allowed a reduction in the dosages of steroids administered, yet steroid-induced morbidity is still a major problem in many cyclosporin-treated renal transplant patients. After favourable initial experiences with cyclosporin monotherapy, several attempts at steroid-free immunosuppression in renal transplant patients have been undertaken, either by not starting steroids after transplantation or by stopping steroids in patients with stable graft function. Most controlled and uncontrolled trials showed that with either strategy short term graft survival was similar with or without steroids, but acute rejection was more frequent in patients not taking steroids. The percentage of patients who could be maintained steroid-free ranged from 28 to 94%, and was higher in patients who stopped steroids later than in those never receiving them. Little information is available about long term follow-up of these patients. Some studies reported late attrition of renal function in patients not taking steroids, while others reported a favourable outcome even in the long term. Steroid-free immunosuppression is feasible in renal transplant patients, but it requires careful monitoring of renal function and cyclosporin dosage. This strategy is particularly indicated in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease or steroid-related complications, and in children. Nevertheless, several issues need to be better elucidated by further studies, namely the long term outcome of steroid-free immunosuppression, the advantages and disadvantages of steroid avoidance versus steroid withdrawal, and the criteria for selecting patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression*
  • Kidney Transplantation* / immunology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Cyclosporine