Objectives: (1) To provide an overview of the world's experience with renal transplantation in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and to consider the most important studies in detail. (2) To examine four specific questions raised by the review, including (a) the frequency of recurrent lupus glomerulonephritis (GN); (b) the effect of pretransplantation dialysis on transplantation outcome; (c) the method of monitoring lupus activity in transplant patients; and (d) the frequency of early graft loss among lupus patients.
Methods: We performed a MEDLINE search of the world's literature from 1975 to 1997 on the subject of renal transplantation in SLE, using the search terms "lupus," "SLE," "kidney," "renal transplantation," and "outcome." We included in this review 20 original reports that devoted significant attention to the outcome of renal transplantation among patients with lupus.
Results: Of the nine studies that compared the transplantation outcomes of lupus patients with those of transplant patients with other causes of end-stage renal disease, the allograft survival rates were superior in the comparison groups in six, and approximately equivalent in three. The 1-year allograft survival rate of lupus patients with cadaveric renal transplants (CRTs) was 67% in the largest multicenter study, significantly lower than the rate for the other 14 diseases examined (77%; P = .009). In most studies, the lupus groups were significantly younger than their comparison groups, but they frequently included larger percentages of black patients. Lupus patients who received living-related renal transplants (LRRTs) generally had superior graft survival rates compared with those who received CRTs. In the largest single-center report, the 5-year graft survival rate in the cyclosporine era was 89% for LRRTs, compared with 41% for CRTs. Recurrence of lupus nephritis in the allograft is relatively rare, approximately 2%; this estimate is probably low. However, recurrent lupus glomerular nephritis (GN) did not invariably result in allograft failure. Short length of pretransplantation dialysis (i.e., less than 6 months) had no adverse effect on transplantation outcome in 10 of 11 studies that examined the relationship. Pretransplantation serological parameters, such as complement and anti-double-stranded DNA antibody levels, appear to be unreliable predictors of the likelihood of recurrence, and also may be inaccurate measures of disease activity in the posttransplantation period. Finally, 9 of the 20 studies reviewed noted an increased risk of early graft loss among lupus transplant patients, possibly because of an increased frequency of acute injection reactions and thrombotic events associated with antiphospholipid antibodies.
Conclusions: Despite the fact that many lupus patients have excellent renal transplantation outcomes, substantial evidence indicates that renal transplant patients with lupus do not fare as well as patients with other causes of end-stage renal disease. Lupus patients may be particularly susceptible to adverse events occurring in the first year after transplantation. Further investigation is needed to improve renal transplantation outcomes for patients with lupus.