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Preventing Rejection

Once you have received your organ, you need to do everything possible to stay healthy and prevent rejection. While the risk of rejecting your new organ decreases as time goes on, it never goes away.

What Is Rejection?

Rejection is when the organ recipient's immune system recognizes the donor organ as foreign and attempts to eliminate it. It often occurs when your immune system detects things like bacteria or a virus. Some degree of rejection occurs with every transplant, but how clinically significant the rejection depends on the individual.

At least one episode of acute rejection is common within the first year after a transplant, but it can also occur years after a transplant. Despite the use of immunosuppression therapy, acute rejection can occur and often lead to chronic rejection. Chronic rejection, which is characterized by gradual loss of organ function, is an ongoing concern for transplant recipients because it can occur weeks, months or years after transplantation. Therefore, organ recipients should be aware of the signs of both acute and chronic rejection. Call your doctor as soon as you experience any of them. Symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness over the transplant site
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms such as chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, headache, dizziness and body aches and pains
  • Change in pulse rate
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling
  • Less urine

Anti-Rejection Medication

By weakening or reducing your immune system’s responses to foreign material, these drugs reduce your immune system’s ability to reject a transplanted organ. These drugs also allow you to maintain enough immunity to prevent overwhelming infection. Many of the medications used to achieve immunosuppression have adverse effects of their own. That's why a combination of medications work best. These medications work in different phases of the immune response to minimize side effects and produce effective immunosuppression. Clinical immunosuppression usually occurs in three phases: induction, maintenance and anti-rejection.


This Web site is intended solely for the purpose of electronically providing the public with general health-related information and convenient access to the data resources. UNOS is not affiliated with any one product nor does UNOS assume responsibility for any error, omissions or other discrepancies.

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