Introduction: Antibodies directed against human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) impact adversely on renal transplantation. Measures aimed at preventing such antibody formation are thus important. The introduction of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) has permitted the reduction of blood transfusion in patients with chronic renal failure. The impact of rHuEpo on the incidence of sensitization in patients awaiting transplantation was therefore studied.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of the patients awaiting transplantation before (group A) and 4 years after (group B) the introduction of rHuEpo was performed in order to ascertain changing patterns in the use of blood transfusion and causes of sensitization.
Results: The total number of transfusions administered to haemodialysis patients decreased by 34% during the study period. This was accompanied by a significant reduction in the ratio of blood transfusion to haemodialysis treatment episodes (0.095 in group A to 0.06 in group B, P = 0.001). The number of patients sensitized as a consequence of blood transfusion decreased from 63% in group A to 28% in group B (P = 0.0004). The overall incidence of sensitization decreased from 50% in group A to 36.5% in group B (P = 0.008). This decrement was associated with a significant reduction in the mean waiting time for transplantation (42.1 +/- 1.1 vs 15.4 +/- 2.4 months, P < 0.0001). The incidence of sensitization due to previous transplantation increased during the study period from 41% in group A to 77% in group B, (P = 0.0004). There was no change in the number of patients sensitized due to pregnancy.
Conclusion: The introduction of rHuEpo has resulted in a significant decrease in the requirements for blood transfusion among patients awaiting transplantation and is associated with a significant reduction in transfusion-related sensitization and mean waiting time for transplantation.