Long-term results of protocol kidney biopsy directing steroid withdrawal in simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant patients

Nemin Zhu, Neal E. Rowe, Paul R. Martin, Sean S. Luke, Thomas B. McGregor, Frank Myslik, Vivian C. McAlister, Alp Sener, Patrick P. Luke


Introduction: We sought to determine whether protocol biopsies could be used to guide treatment and improve outcomes in simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) patients.

Methods: Between 2004 and 2013, protocol biopsies were performed on SPK patients at 3–6 months and one year post-transplant. Maintenance immunosuppression consisted of a calcineurin inhibitor, anti-proliferative agent, and corticosteroid. Corticosteroid was withdrawn in negative early biopsies, maintained in subclinical/ borderline biopsies, and increased if Banff IB or greater rejection was identified. Endpoints included presence of interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy on biopsy at one year (IF/TA), rejection episodes, and renal and pancreas function at five years’ followup.

Results: Forty-one SPK transplant patients were reviewed and a total of 75 protocol biopsies were identified. On early biopsy, 51% had negative biopsies, 44% had borderline rejection, and 5% had subclinical rejection. Renal and pancreas function were not significantly different at one, two, and five years post-transplant between negative vs. borderline early biopsy patients. No difference in the degree of IF/TA was found between these two groups.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate protocol biopsies as an investigative tool prior to steroid withdrawal in SPK patients. Our study suggests that there are no detrimental functional or histological effects at five years post-transplant, despite weaning steroids in the negative biopsy group.


kidney pancreas transplant, type 1 diabetes, protocol biopsy, rejection

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5489/cuaj.4702