Some of the most important medications post-transplant are immunosuppressants, drugs that keep the recipient’s body from attacking the new organ.

Solid organ transplant is the surgical replacement of a patient’s failing organ with a healthy, functional organ from a donor.  Common organs transplanted include the kidneys, lungs, and liver.  With over 28,000 organ transplants a year, transplant is becoming an increasingly common result when damage to an organ is severe.  Organs can require transplant due to an acute injury or the accumulated, debilitating effects of chronic disease.

Kidney damage can occur from common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and infections.  As kidney function decreases, patients’ kidneys are no longer able to filter blood adequately, and dialysis is required until transplant can occur.

Lung transplant patients typically have genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that prevent normal lung function. However, progressive diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Pulmonary Hypertension can also necessitate transplant.

Liver tissue can become cirrhotic, where healthy tissue is replaced with scarred and fibrotic tissue, leading to loss of function. Virus infections such as Hepatitis B or C, toxins, or metabolic diseases can all causes cirrhosis and result in liver transplantation.

With lung, liver, and kidney transplants, the organ donor may be living or deceased.  Donor organs are matched up with recipients to minimize the probability that the recipient’s body will see the transplanted organ as foreign and reject the transplant.  Transplant recipients remain on medications to prevent organ rejection and avoid infection.

Common immunosuppressants include:

    • Azathioprine
    • Cyclosporine
    • Methotrexate
    • Methylprednisolone
    • Mycophenolate mofetil
    • Prednisone
    • Sirolimus
    • Tacrolimus
    • 6-mercaptopurine

All immunosuppressants increase the chance of infection, so transplant patients must use extra caution. Since immunosuppresants may also exacerbate high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, patients must participate in routine blood pressure monitoring and blood work to prevent secondary complications.  Other adjunct medications after transplant may include antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals which reduce the chance of infection.