Rejection and Kidney Transplant
Rejection is when your body’s immune system attacks your transplanted organ and tries to
destroy it. There are different kinds of rejection that need different kinds of treatment.
Acute Cellular Rejection
Cellular rejection is a direct recognition of the transplanted organ. The T or killer cells of your
immune system see your organ as foreign. Cellular rejection is diagnosed by a kidney transplant
biopsy. The treatment is to receive high-dose steroids. The sooner it is treated, the better the
outcome will be. If the rejection does not respond to the steroids, other medicine may be used to
Antibody-Mediated or Humoral Rejection
Antibody-mediated rejection is an indirect recognition of the transplanted organ. The B cells or
memory cells of your immune system recognize pieces of cells from the transplant, start an
immune response, and make new antibodies against the organ. It is diagnosed by a kidney
transplant biopsy and watching antibody levels in your blood. Treatment usually includes IV
medicines. You may need to be admitted to the hospital. Sometimes a procedure called
plasmaphoresis is used to remove the antibodies. This procedure is like dialysis, but is usually
just for a short time until antibodies are removed.
The sooner a rejection is found and treated, the better the outcome will be.
Signs of rejection
▪ Increased creatinine
▪ Increased temperature
▪ Increased weight
▪ Decreased urine output
▪ Ankle swelling
▪ Swollen kidney, tenderness over kidney site
▪ Aching all over
▪ Increasing antibody levels in your blood
Tests that are done to rule out rejection include labs, ultrasound, scans, or biopsy.
Call us if you notice any signs of rejection.
On weekdays call the transplant office at (608) 263-1384.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©1/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
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