What is organ transplant rejection?

Organ Transplant Rejection

Organ transplant rejection

Transplant rejection occurs when the immune system detects the transplanted organ as foreign.

The immune system protects the body from substances that may be harmful. Antigens are found on the surface of these substances. If the immune system recognizes these antigens as foreign (not part of the body), it will attack them.

Transplant rejection works in the same way. A foreign tissue or organ can trigger a transplant rejection. Organ recipients need to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection.

What are the symptoms of organ transplant rejection?

Organ rejection can affect many body functions. These include blood pressure, breathing, digestion, bowel and bladder habits, and blood sugar levels. Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (feeling tired).
  • A general feeling of illness (malaise).
  • Fever or chills.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Sudden weight gain or swelling.
  • Pain over the transplant site.
  • Less urine output, if you had a kidney transplant.

You may have other symptoms caused by the organ you received. Sometimes there are no symptoms.

How is organ transplant rejection treated?

Organ transplant rejection is treated with medicines that reduce your body's immune response. Your treatment depends on any other conditions you have. It may depend on how much time has passed since the transplant. Medicines that reduce your body's immune response can make it hard to fight infections. So you may also get medicines to prevent infections.

You may be treated in the hospital or at home. If you have other conditions, you're more likely to stay in the hospital.

You will be watched closely to be sure your medicines are working.

Preventing organ transplant rejection

You can take steps to keep your new organ healthy and help you live longer.

  • Go to your doctor appointments.

    Regular follow-up with your doctor is important to check for organ rejection.

  • Take your anti-rejection medicines as directed.

    It may help to talk to someone who has had a transplant. This person can talk to you about how you can make taking these medicines part of your daily life.

  • Know what to do if you miss a dose.

    Talk to your care team if you are missing doses. They want to help.

  • Know the side effects of the anti-rejection medicines.

    If you have severe side effects, tell your doctor right away.

  • Get regular blood and tissue tests.

    These tests help your doctor know if your organ is being rejected. This doesn't mean that you will lose the organ. Adding or changing medicines may still help treat or prevent rejection.

  • Don't take any over-the-counter medicines before talking with your doctor.

    These include cold or herbal remedies. Other medicines may interact poorly with your anti-rejection medicines.

How is organ transplant rejection diagnosed?

Blood tests may be done that can show if an organ is being rejected. These tests may be able to show the problem before symptoms start.

Organ rejection may be confirmed with a biopsy. This is a small sample of tissue taken from an organ.

How are antirejection medicines used for an organ transplant?

People who've had an organ transplant need antirejection medicines. That's because the immune system will try to destroy the new organ. These medicines weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to destroy your new organ. But they also make it harder for your body to fight infections, cancer, and other diseases.

Types of antirejection medicine you may need to take include:

  • Corticosteroids.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors.
  • Antiproliferative agents.
  • Monoclonal antibodies.
  • Polyclonal antibodies.

These medicines are also called immunosuppressants.

What is organ transplant rejection?

Organ transplant rejection happens when your body tries to destroy an organ that you have received. Your immune system protects you from infection and disease. It defends your body against foreign matter. So your body may attack the donor organ because the organ doesn't match your own tissue exactly.

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