Background: The determinators of patient survival after renal transplantation are incompletely known, and conflicting results have been reported. This may have been influenced by time-related changes in patient selection, post-transplantation management and immunosuppressive regimens. This study was performed to evaluate in recipients of a first renal transplant the effect of patient characteristics, transplantation era, and the immunosuppressive regimen on patient survival.
Methods: We used data from the Leiden Renal Transplant Database of all first renal transplantations performed between 1966 and 1994 in Leiden, the Netherlands. The effect of the following parameters on mortality was investigated: era of transplantation, sex, age at transplantation, cause of renal failure, immunosuppressive regimen, type and duration of pretransplantation dialysis, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and smoking. In addition we analysed the causes of death. Results were expressed as crude mortality rates, relative risks of mortality, and standardized mortality ratios as compared with death rates in the Dutch population.
Results: The analysis comprised 86 living donor transplant recipients and 916 cadaver transplant recipients. After adjustment for age and sex, the relative risk of mortality for living donor transplant recipients compared with cadaver transplant recipients was 0.5 (95% CI 0.2 to 1.03, P = 0.06). In first cadaver kidney transplant recipients the risk of first-year mortality improved significantly with time, which coincided with the introduction of cyclosporin. The risk of mortality after the first year was higher in patients aged over 40 years at transplantation, men, smokers, and in the presence of hypertension or diabetes, but the effect of individual factors on mortality was small. We found no effect of the type of pretransplantation dialysis or the duration of pretransplantation haemodialysis on post-transplantation mortality. The standardized mortality ratio for recipients of first renal transplants was 14 times the population average in the first year after transplantation and was still four times in the remaining years.
Conclusion: In the present study, time-related changes in patient management were responsible for improved patient survival in the first year after transplantation during the study period. Many individual factors contributed moderately to the risk of mortality after the first year. Compared to the general population the mortality rate of renal transplant recipients was significantly higher during the whole follow-up period.