Transplant surgery is one of the great successes of modern medicine - but what happens to the patient afterwards? Surgeons have recognised there is a risk of kidney (renal) failure, but they haven't known the extent of the problem.
A new study has finally given them the answer. Up to 21 per cent of transplant patients will suffer kidney failure, often fatally, researchers from Michigan University have discovered.
They analysed the records of 69,321 people who had a non-renal transplant in the USA between 1990 and 2000. Chronic renal failure occurred in 11,426 patients - or 16.5 per cent - within three years of surgery and, of these, nearly 29 per cent needed dialysis or a renal transplant. Strangely, the researchers did not reveal how many patients died, but stated that the mortality risk rose by over four times after transplant surgery.
Renal failure at five years depended on the type of transplant: just 6.9 per cent of patients who had a heart-lung transplant suffered kidney failure, but this rose to 21.3 per cent among intestine-transplant patients.
(Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2003; 349: 931-40).