Learn the signs of organ transplant rejection and how to avoid it.


Rejection is a normal reaction of the body to a foreign object. When a new kidney is placed in a person's body, the body sees the transplanted organ as a threat and tries to attack it. The immune system makes antibodies to try to kill the new organ, not realizing that the transplanted kidney is beneficial. To allow the organ to successfully live in a new body, medications must be given to trick the immune system into accepting the transplant and not thinking it is a foreign object.

Signs of Rejection

The following are some of the most common symptoms of rejection. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • fever
  •  tenderness over the kidney
  • elevated blood creatinine level
  • high blood pressure

Your transplant team will instruct you on who to call immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Preventing Rejection

Medications must be given for the rest of your life to fight rejection. Each person is individual, and each transplant team has preferences for different medications. The anti-rejection medications most commonly used include:

  • cyclosporine
  • tacrolimus
  • azathioprine
  • mycophenolate mofetil
  • prednisone
  • OKT3
  • antithymocyte Ig (ATGAM)

New anti-rejection medications are continually being approved. Physicians tailor drug regimes to meet the needs of each individual patient.

Usually several anti-rejection medications are given initially. The doses of these medications may change frequently as your response to them changes. Because anti-rejection medications affect the immune system, persons who receive a transplant will be at higher risk for infections. A balance must be maintained between preventing rejection and making you very susceptible to infection. Blood tests to measure the amount of medication in the body are done periodically to make sure you do not get too much or too little of the medications. White blood cells are also an important indicator of how much medication you need.

This risk of infection is especially great in the first few months because higher doses of anti-rejection medications are given during this time. You will most likely need to take medications to prevent other infections from occurring.