Treatment strategies to minimize or prevent chronic allograft dysfunction in pediatric renal transplant recipients: an overview

Britta Höcker, Burkhard Tönshoff
Paediatric Drugs 2009, 11 (6): 381-96
Long-term allograft survival poses a major problem in pediatric renal transplantation, with allograft nephropathy being the principal cause of graft failure after the first post-transplant year. The mechanisms of nephron loss resulting in graft dysfunction are multiple, comprising both immunologic factors such as acute and chronic antibody- or T-cell-mediated rejection and non-immunologic components. The latter include peri-transplant injuries and renovascular lesions (renal artery stenosis, thrombosis) as well as cardiovascular risk factors such as arterial hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Another relevant issue leading to progressive nephron loss and declining kidney transplant function is acute and chronic nephrotoxicity induced by the calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) ciclosporin (cyclosporine microemulsion) and tacrolimus. Furthermore, the presence of an abnormal lower urinary tract as well as bacterial (recurrent pyelonephritis) and viral (cytomegalovirus [CMV], polyomavirus [BK virus; BKV]) infections are crucial factors involved in the incidence of chronic allograft dysfunction and graft failure. Renovascular lesions and lower urinary tract obstruction are typical indicators for surgical intervention. The aim of treatment in pediatric patients with renal failure secondary to a dysfunctional lower urinary tract is to create a sterile, continent, and nonrefluxive reservoir. Surgical techniques such as bladder augmentation and the introduction of intermittent catheterization and anticholinergic therapy have significantly improved graft outcome. Arterial hypertension, another factor responsible for graft function deterioration in pediatric renal transplant recipients, is controlled preferably by the use of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor antagonists, which are known to possess nephroprotective properties in addition to their potent antihypertensive effects. Although treatment of subclinical rejection with augmented immunosuppression has been associated with better graft survival, an increase of the immunosuppressive level to avoid subclinical rejection should be weighed against the risk of infection. The majority of viral infections affecting kidney allografts are caused by CMV and BKV. Antiviral CMV prophylaxis or pre-emptive therapy with ganciclovir has been shown to have beneficial effects in the pediatric renal transplant population. Treatment of BKV-induced nephropathy is based on reduction of the immunosuppressant therapy, although specific antiviral agents such as cidofovir and leflunomide are known to inhibit BKV. However, cidofovir itself is nephrotoxic and should therefore be administered cautiously to pediatric renal transplant patients. Since CNIs are likewise known for their nephrotoxic effects, especially with long-term use, alteration of the immunosuppressant regimen is necessary in case of deteriorating graft function due to CNI-induced histopathologic changes. Complete CNI avoidance seems inappropriate because, in this situation in pediatric renal transplant recipients, other relatively potent immunosuppressant agents such as lymphocyte-depleting antibodies, which are frequently accompanied by a higher incidence of infections, are needed for rejection prophylaxis. CNI withdrawal and switching of the immunosuppressant regimen from CNI therapy to sirolimus may be an option for some pediatric renal transplant patients with less advanced graft function deterioration. Nevertheless, potential adverse events such as aggravation of proteinuria, hyperlipidemia, myelosuppression, and hypergonadotropic hypogonadism have to be considered, and controlled studies are lacking. At present, an immunosuppressant maintenance therapy composed of low-dose tacrolimus or ciclosporin (CNI minimization) and mycophenolate mofetil with low-dose corticosteroids appears to be the most promising strategy to adopt in pediatric renal transplant recipients at low or normal immunologic risk.

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