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QJM. 1996 Oct;89(10):751-63.

Cyclosporin nephrotoxicity in heart and lung transplant patients.

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  • 1Department of Histopathology, University College London Medical School, UK.


Twenty-two patients with heart, lung or heart and lung transplants maintained on cyclosporin for periods ranging from 3 months to 10 years developed renal insufficiency which was investigated by renal biopsy. The histopathological changes were: (i) severe vascular and glomerular damage due to thrombotic microangiopathy (TM); (ii) a form of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS); (iii) glomerular ischaemia. Rather than being separate entities, these changes appeared to represent a spectrum of pathology, some biopsies showing all three forms of glomerular injury. In all cases the glomerular changes were accompanied by arteriolar and arterial pathology, and we identified novel ultrastructural changes in the arteriolar endothelial basal lamina. Tubular atrophy was a consistent feature, the severity of which reflected the severity of the glomerular sclerosis, and which appeared to be a consequence of glomerular loss. Our findings are consistent with the nephrotoxic effects of cyclosporin being mediated chiefly via damage to preglomerular vessels and glomerular capillary endothelium. From an analysis of the clinical aspects of these cases, the effects of cyclosporin appear to be to some extent idiosyncratic, and therefore not entirely preventable, but strict monitoring of blood cyclosporin levels is essential to minimize the risk of permanent renal damage. Monitoring urinary protein in addition to plasma creatinine may detect the onset of FSGS, as proteinuria precedes creatinine elevation.

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