BACKGROUND:: Desensitization protocols have been developed to allow successful kidney transplantation in sensitized recipients. However, a detailed analysis of the impact of these protocols on alloantibody has not been performed. METHODS:: We studied 12 living-donor kidney-transplant recipients with positive antihuman globulin-enhanced complement dependent cytotoxicity (AHG-CDC) crossmatches against their donors. Using a variety of crossmatch techniques and single-antigen flowbeads (SAFBs), we characterized the specificity and amount of alloantibody at baseline before desensitization, after desensitization (using plasmapheresis followed by 100 mg/kg intravenous immunoglobulin, and anti-CD20 antibody), and 4 months after transplantation (after splenectomy and on maintenance immunosuppression). RESULTS:: All 12 patients with a positive baseline AHG-CDC crossmatch were AHG-CDC crossmatch negative at the time of transplant (after desensitization). However, despite desensitization, the majority of patients had low-level donor-specific alloantibodies demonstrable on the day of transplantation by both flow crossmatch (FXM 8/12) and SAFBs (10/11). Four months after transplantation, no patient had a positive AHG-CDC crossmatch, but again the majority had persistent low levels of donor-specific alloantibodies by FXM (6/12) and SAFBs (9/11). No patient experienced hyperacute rejection, and the persistence of low levels of donor-specific alloantibodies did not correlate with the development of humoral rejection in the early posttransplant period. CONCLUSIONS:: Despite desensitization, a majority of positive crossmatch transplant recipients demonstrate low levels of donor-specific alloantibodies both on the day of transplant and 4 months after transplantation. The impact of these antibodies appears to be minimal early after transplant, but their long-term significance bears further study.
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