OBJECTIVES - Advances in immunosuppressive therapy have led to substantial improvements in kidney transplant outcomes in the past 20 years. Kidney transplantation activity started in 1963 at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and continues to grow with increasing numbers of transplants from living-related and unrelated donors. In this study, patient and graft survival rates during 2 different periods were evaluated and compared with non-veterans-administration centers.
MATERIALS AND METHODS - Six hundred fourteen kidney transplants were performed between March 1963 and December 2002. For analytic purposes, the 40-year experience was divided into 2 eras based on the immunosuppressive agents used. Azathioprine and prednisone were the immunosuppressive agents used in era 1. A calcineurin-inhibitor-based triple immunosuppressive regimen initially including azathioprine and prednisone and later, mycophenolate mofetil and prednisone, was the preferred immunosuppressive regimen in era 2.
RESULTS - In era 1, 1-year patient and graft survival rates were 72.5% and 50%, and 89% and 75% for deceased-donor and living-donor transplants respectively. In era 2, patient survival rates increased to 95.1% and 87.8% for 1 and 3 years respectively, while graft survival increased to 87.6% and 74.9%. Forty-three percent of deceased-donor and 21% of living-donor kidneys were lost owing to rejection in era 1. In era 2, the incidence of acute rejection was 14.5% overall.
CONCLUSIONS - Overall, our results are comparable with non-veterans-administration centers and the national average and show that kidney transplantation offers veteran patients with end-stage renal disease a safe and effective treatment with increased quality of life.