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Transplant Proc. 2005 Oct;37(8):3288-9.

Refractory acute renal allograft rejection successfully treated with photopheresis.

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Department of Transplantation Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital, Huddinge, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden.



Acute rejection episodes still occur in spite of modern immunosuppressive protocols. We present seven patients with biopsy-proven acute rejections after kidney transplantation refractory to repeated pulses of high-dose steroids and antithymocyte globulin (ATG) or OKT-3, but responsive to photopheresis therapy.


Photopheresis is a nontoxic immunomodulatory, apheresis-based treatment with no general immunosuppressive action. Rather, it suppresses specific pathogenic T-cell clones. During photopheresis mononuclear leukocytes are collected from the patient using centrifugation technique, treated with a photosensitizing agent, irradiated, and subsequently retransfused.


All patients tolerated the treatment well, with no notable side effects. At the 12-month follow-up the median creatinine had decreased to 161 mumol/L compared to 282 mumol/L at the start of photopheresis and at the last follow-up 12 to 43 months after transplantation all patients still had functioning grafts. In five of the seven cases there had been a significant improvement in renal function, whereas in two of the patients the renal function remained stable but without a decrease in creatinine.


It is our experience that the prognosis for renal allografts with acute rejection unresponsive to conventional antirejection treatment (ie, repeated pulses of methylprednisolone and ATG or OKT-3) is very poor. Therefore, we conclude that the photopheresis treatment contributed to the favorable outcome in this small group of patients. We are presently designing a prospective randomized study to further evaluate the effect of photopheresis after renal transplantation.

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