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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2005 Oct;16(10):3128-35. Epub 2005 Aug 17.

Glucose metabolism in renal transplant recipients: effect of calcineurin inhibitor withdrawal and conversion to sirolimus.

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Department of Emergency and Organ Transplants, Division of Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation, University of Bari, Policlinico-Piazza Giulio Cesare 11, Bari 70124, Italy.


Cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus have been associated with an increased risk for diabetes after transplantation, whereas sirolimus is deemed to be devoid of any effect on glucose metabolism. This study was performed to investigate the effect of the withdrawal of calcineurin inhibitors and the switch to sirolimus on peripheral insulin resistance and pancreatic beta cell response. Twenty-six patients who received a kidney transplant and discontinued CsA and were converted to sirolimus and 15 recipients of suboptimal kidneys who were treated with tacrolimus plus sirolimus for the first 3 mo after grafting and thereafter with sirolimus alone were enrolled. All patients underwent an oral glucose tolerance test and intravenous insulin tolerance test before and 6 mo after the conversion to sirolimus-alone therapy. The withdrawal of CsA or tacrolimus was associated with a significant fall of insulin sensitivity (both P = 0.01) and with a defect in the compensatory beta cell response, as measured by the disposition index (P = 0.004 and P = 0.02, respectively). The increase of insulin resistance and the decrease of disposition index significantly correlated with the change of serum triglyceride concentration after the conversion to sirolimus-based therapy (R(2) = 0.30, P = 0.0002; and R(2) = 0.19, P = 0.004, respectively). Clinically, the switch to sirolimus was associated with a 30% increase of incidence of impaired glucose tolerance and with four patients' developing new-onset diabetes. In conclusion, the discontinuation of calcineurin inhibitors and their replacement by sirolimus fail to ameliorate the glycometabolic profile of kidney transplant recipients. Rather, it is associated with a worsening of insulin resistance and an inappropriately low insulin response.

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