Organ Rejection - Symptoms and Types

Organ rejection is a normal response by the body to fight off the transplanted organ because your body sees it as a foreign object.  All transplant patients take immunosuppressant medications after transplant surgery to avoid rejection. Even with these medications, rejection is still possible.

Signs of Organ Rejection

Organ rejection is possible at any time but is most likely three to six months after transplant surgery. Most people experience organ rejection at least once. Rejection is reversible with the proper treatment. When rejection is recognized and treated quickly, your transplanted organ can usually be saved.

If you recognize any of the following signs or organ rejection, call your transplant coordinator immediately:

  • Fever
  • Decreased urine output
  • Blood in urine
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Ankle swelling
  • Pain, swelling, or pus near your surgery incision
  • Aching all over
  • Increase in creatinine levels, as shown on blood test

Patients do not always recognize the signs of organ rejection. Your transplant team can confirm the health of your organ transplant through regular blood tests. That is why it is important to keep all of your regularly scheduled clinic appointments.

Types of Rejection

If you experience a rejection episode, or if you need other treatment related to your kidney transplant, our team requests that you return to Fletcher Allen for treatment.  You can see the doctor of your choice for care of common ailments such as the cold or flu.  However, it is important that you contact your transplant coordinator about these visits, especially when any medication is prescribed.  Certain medications can interfere with your immunosuppressive regimen, and they can adversely affect your transplant.

Rejection can occur any time if you stop taking your anti-rejection medications as prescribed.

  • Acute Rejection: If detected, this type of rejection is most often treatable. It is most common two to 12 weeks after transplant surgery, but it may occur within the first few days. Acute rejection is diagnosed on the basis of your lab work, symptoms. Other tests may include an ultrasound or biopsy. Treatment will depend on how severe the acute rejection is. It usually involves more an increase in immunosuppressant medications.
  • Chronic Rejection: Chronic rejection occurs gradually over a period of time. This type of rejection is characterized by a gradual loss of organ function.