Other complications after a kidney transplant

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Other complications after transplant do not fall into any set category. As a result, we call them miscellaneous complications. They include:

Medication side effects

Transplant medications can cause side effects, but these can be mild or severe, depending on each patient. The most common side effect is stomach upset, but others include:

  • high blood pressure (which you can reduce with a low-sodium (salt) diet and medicines)
  • heart disease (which the transplant team can detect early by doing an echo every year after transplant)
  • osteoporosis, or “thinning” of the bones (which you can prevent by taking calcium and vitamin D, if prescribed by your team, and doing regular, weight bearing exercise)
  • hyperlipidemia, or high levels of fat and cholesterol in your blood (which you can control with medicines or a cholesterol-lowering diet​ and exercise)
  • diabetes, or high blood sugar levels (rare, caused by higher doses of prednisone and/or tacrolimus). If diabetes does occur, it usually lasts only a short time. If you are taking prednisone and experience high blood sugar levels, you can control them with changes in diet or injections of insulin.

As time passes after your surgery, the transplant team will slowly lower your dose of immunosuppressants. This will decrease your risk of experiencing these side effects.

It is important to let your doctor know if you are experiencing any unusual side effects, as they may be able to change your medications or doses.


Stenosis happens when the blood vessels going in and out of the kidney become narrow. This can lead to very high blood pressure.

It’s often possible to fix this narrowing using a procedure called an arteriogram. This involves putting a catheter, or thin tube, into the blood vessel and inflating a balloon to make the vessel wider.


Long-term of use of immunosuppressants, which will you will need to take after your transplant, increases your risk of developing different types of cancer later in life. For example, all patients have a risk of developing skin cancer and females have a greater risk of developing cervical cancer.

All transplant patients should take steps to prevent cancer, for example by wearing sunscreen to protect the skin.

Recurring kidney disease

Sometimes the disease that damaged your old kidney can recur (come back) and affect your new kidney after it is transplanted. Check with your transplant team if you have a disease that can recur after transplant and, if so, what treatments are available to prevent damage to your new kidney.

Failing transplant

Almost a fifth (20 per cent) of patients lose their transplanted kidney in the first five years after surgery. Up to half will lose their transplant after 12 years.

There are many reasons for a transplant to fail. It may be due to acute rejection episodes, infections or failure to take medications properly.

To prevent kidney failure, take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor, stay healthy and have regular follow-up visits with your team.

Last updated: November 30th 2017