A recent retrospective cross-sectional cohort study (N Marcus et al. J Pediatr 2018; 196: 154-60, editorial page 10) identified 273 transplant recipients with a median followup of 3.6 years. This cohort included 111 liver transplant recipients, 103 heart transplant recipients, 52 kidney transplant recipients, and 7 multivisceral transplant recipients.
- 92 (34%) developed allergy or autoimmunity after transplantation.
- Allergic problems included eczema (n=44), food allergy (n=22), eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (n=11), and asthma (n=28)
- Autoimmunity problems developed in 6.6% (18) including autoimmune cytopenias (n=10). Two patients died due to autoimmune hemolytic anemia and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
- Allergic problems typically developed during the first year after transplantation and rarely after 5 years following transplantation.
- ~20% required a change in immunosuppression
- ~50% improved with time
In the editorial, the Dr. Helen Evans notes that the increasing reporting of atopic/allergic disorders could be due to recognition but could also be due, in part, to the widespread adoption of tacrolimus instead of cyclosporine for immunosuppression.
My take: Many have said that organ transplantation, which is life-saving, substitutes one problem for another. This is an example of an additional burden, often related to immunosuppression, that patients and families have to manage afterwards.