Background Nephrosclerosis, nephron size, and nephron number vary among kidneys transplanted from living donors. However, whether these structural features predict kidney transplant recipient outcomes is unclear. Methods Our study used computed tomography (CT) and implantation biopsy to investigate donated kidney features as predictors of death-censored graft failure at three transplant centers participating in the Aging Kidney Anatomy study. We used global glomerulosclerosis, interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy, artery luminal stenosis, and arteriolar hyalinosis to measure nephrosclerosis; mean glomerular volume, cortex volume per glomerulus, and mean cross-sectional tubular area to measure nephron size; and calculations from CT cortical volume and glomerular density on biopsy to assess nephron number. We also determined the death-censored risk of graft failure with each structural feature after adjusting for the predictive clinical characteristics of donor and recipient. Results The analysis involved 2293 donor-recipient pairs. Mean recipient follow-up was 6.3 years, during which 287 death-censored graft failures and 424 deaths occurred. Factors that predicted death-censored graft failure independent of both donor and recipient clinical characteristics included interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy, larger cortical nephron size (but not nephron number), and smallermedullary volume. In a subset with 12 biopsy section slides, arteriolar hyalinosis also predicted death-censored graft failure. Conclusions Subclinical nephrosclerosis, larger cortical nephron size, and smaller medullary volume in healthy donors modestly predict death-censored graft failure in the recipient, independent of donor or recipient clinical characteristics. These findings provide insights into a graft's "intrinsic quality" at the time of donation, and further support the use of intraoperative biopsies to identify kidney grafts that are at higher risk for failure.
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