The development of HLA antibodies towards a failing renal allograft is a barrier to retransplantation. This study aimed to compare the formation of HLA donor-specific antibodies (DSA) in patients undergoing graft nephrectomy and in those with a failed graft left in situ who had maintenance immunosuppression (IS) stopped, and assess the relative impact of IS cessation and graft nephrectomy on future relative chance of transplant (R-CoT).
A single-center retrospective study of patients with failed grafts between 2005 and 2015 was performed. Samples were tested for DSA pre-IS wean, post-IS wean, and post-IS cessation. Nephrectomy patients additionally had samples tested for DSA before and after nephrectomy. Calculated reaction frequency (cRF) was determined at each timepoint and entered into the UK Organ Donation and Transplant R-CoT calculator.
Forty-one patients were included in the study: 24 with nephrectomy and 17 with a failed graft in situ. Patient demographics and duration of IS wean were similar between groups. There was a higher rate of blood transfusion (54% vs 24%) in nephrectomy patients. In patients whose graft remained in situ, cRF rose from 13% pre-IS wean to 40% post-IS wean and 62% after IS cessation. This equated to a reduction in mean R-CoT from 54% to 46% at 5 years. In patients undergoing nephrectomy mean cRF rose from 31% pre-IS wean to 69% post-IS wean and 89% post-IS cessation. Mean R-CoT fell from 54% to 42% at 5 years.
A stepwise increase in cRF with reduced chance of transplant was observed in both groups as IS was withdrawn, with a similar pattern irrespective of graft nephrectomy. Calculated reaction frequency was higher in the nephrectomy group. The risks and benefits of stopping IS need to be carefully considered on an individual basis to maximize chance of future transplant.