Role of therapeutic plasma exchange as a desensitization therapy in human leukocyte antigen incompatible renal transplant patients: A single-center experience

Hematol Transfus Cell Ther. 2022 Dec 24; doi: 10.1016/j.htct.2022.11.009.

Despite an increase in the rate of successful live donor renal transplantation done annually, the number of potential recipients with acceptable donors is relegated to the ever-expanding cadaver-donor waiting list due to sensitization to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies. If not sufficiently suppressed, these preformed HLA antibodies can trigger antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and early graft loss. To ameliorate this situation, various desensitization treatments are administered to provide a survival benefit to highly sensitized patients.


One hundred and six patients in the time frame of January 2017 to March 2019 were included in the study group. The desensitization protocol included therapeutic plasma exchange and administration of low-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (100 mg/kg per therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) session) to highly sensitized patients (treatment group) who subsequently underwent renal transplantation after negative pre-transplant Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Luminex crossmatch (CDC/LumXM). We compared graft survival rates between the group undergoing desensitization (treatment group) and matched control group of patients that underwent HLA-compatible transplantation.


In the treatment group, Kaplan-Meier analysis estimates an average rate of patient graft survival of 95.2% at 3 years post-transplant, as compared with the rate of 86.9% in the same time frame for the control-matched group (p < 0.05 for both comparisons).


Desensitization treatment with TPE before live donor renal transplantation in the case of patients with HLA sensitization provides better survival benefits along with monitoring for donor-specific antibodies (DSAs) and other infections, rather than waiting for a compatible organ donor. The data lays out evidence that desensitization treatments can assist overcome HLA incompatibility barriers in live donor renal transplantation.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Case Series / Case Control / Cohort
KEYWORDS: Desensitization; HLA incompatibility; TPE