Objective: To determine the frequency of recurrent lupus nephritis (LN) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who underwent renal transplantation.
Methods: We reviewed the posttransplant clinical course and renal biopsy results in 97 consecutive SLE patients who underwent a total of 106 renal transplantation procedures at our center from January 1984 to September 1996.
Results: There were 81 female and 16 male patients, with a mean age of 35 years. Mean duration of dialysis prior to transplantation was 33.5 months; 9 patients were never dialyzed. In all patients, the disease was clinically and serologically quiescent at the time of transplantation. The mean posttransplantation followup period was 62.6 months. Patients underwent a total of 143 posttransplant biopsies. Nine patients had pathologic evidence of recurrent LN. Six of the patients with recurrence had cadaveric grafts, 2 had living-related grafts, and 1 had a living-unrelated graft. Recurrence occurred an average of 3.1 years after transplantation; the longest interval was 9.3 years and the shortest, 5 days. Histopathologic diagnoses on recurrence included diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis, focal proliferative glomerulonephritis, membranous glomerulonephritis, and mesangial glomerulonephritis. In 4 patients, recurrent LN contributed to graft loss. Three of the patients with recurrence had serologic evidence of active lupus, but only 1 had symptoms of active lupus (arthritis). Three patients who lost their grafts secondary to recurrent LN underwent second renal transplantation procedures and had functioning grafts at 7, 30, and 35 months, respectively.
Conclusion: In the largest single medical center series of renal transplant patients with SLE, recurrent LN was more common than reported in the literature, but was not always associated with allograft loss. Recurrent LN was often present in the absence of clinical and serologic evidence of active SLE.