Transplant medicines

Your body can react to the new kidney as a foreign object and try to destroy it. This process is called rejection. To keep your body from rejecting the new kidney you need to take special medicine.

You will need to take these immunosuppressive or anti-rejection medicines for the rest of your life.

The nurses and transplant coordinator will start to teach you about the medicines right after surgery. You will be started on the medicines the day before surgery.

You will receive a medicine list so you can set up the pills each day in your pill box. The transplant coordinator will help and watch you do this activity.

When you are ready to leave the hospital it is important that you know which medicines to take and when. If you are not ready to get your medicine ready in the pill box, a family member, friend or in-home nursing service can help you until you can do it yourself.

Do not stop taking a medicine or change the dose without the OK from your nephrologist. If you are having bad side effects, tell your doctor.

Medicines and their side effects

You will need to take a combination of medicines. The following transplant medicines all have side effects. You may or may not have side effects.  Use the following information to learn what possible side effects may occur. Tell your nephrologist if the side effects are keeping you from doing your regular activities.

  • Use:  Prednisone is a steroid. It is used to treat inflammation (swelling) but it is also an immunosuppressant. For the first two days after a transplant, you will receive prednisone by an intravenous (IV) line. After the third dose you will receive prednisone in a pill form once a day.
  • Dose strength:  How long it has been since your transplant will determine your dose. The six months after you start taking prednisone your dosage will be tapered (lowered) until you reach a steady level.
  • Most common side effects:
    • weight gain
    • indigestion
    • sweating
    • nervousness or mood swings
    • increased blood pressure and cholesterol
    • acne
    • swelling of the face, feet or ankles
    • increase in blood glucose
  • Use:  Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant.
  • Dose strength:  The dose strength is based on your body weight. You will take the medicine every 12 hours. Your blood levels will be checked regularly. The dosage may be changed often. The two months after you start taking cyclosporine your dosage will be lowered.
  • Most common side effects:
    • tremors (shaking)
    • increased blood pressure
    • increased hair growth
    • swollen gums
    • headache
    • tingling of the hands and feet
    • decrease in how your kidney works.
  • Use:  Tacrolimus is an immunosuppressant.
  • Dose strength:  The dose strength is based on your body weight. You will take the medicine every 12 hours. Your blood levels will be checked regularly. The dosage may be changed often. The two months after you start taking tacrolimus your dosage will be lowered.
  • Most common side effects:
    • allergic reaction (hives or itching; swelling in your • face or hands, and swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat; trouble breathing; tight feeling in your chest)
    • dry mouth
    • muscle cramps
    • nausea or vomiting
    • change in heartbeat
    • fever, chills, body aches
    • sore throat
    • cough
    • weight gain in neck, upper back, breast, face or wrist
    • increased thirst or hunger
    • feeling lightheaded, dizzy or faint
    • seizures, tremors
    • sudden, severe stomach pain.
  • Use:  Mycophenolate mofetil is an immunosuppressant.
  • Dose strength:  Take every 12 hours.
  • Most common side effects:
    • decreased white blood cell count
    • decreased hemoglobin (protein in red blood cells)
    • nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Preventive medicines

In addition to the anti-rejection medicines, you will receive three preventive medicines the first two to six months after your transplant. They are:

  • antibiotic to help prevent bacterial infections
  • antifungal to help prevent yeast infections in the mouth
  • antacid to help prevent stomach ulcers.

As the doses of your anti-rejection medicines are lowered, your nephrologist will decide when you can stop using the preventive medicines.

Other medicines

You may need to take blood pressure medicine and/or any medicine you were taking before surgery. The nephrologist will adjust your medicine as you recover.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Kidney Transplant Information for Recipients and Donors, renal_ahc_93498
Reviewed By: Allina Patient Education experts, including the Transplantation Department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital
First Published: 05/15/2009
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2009

Important
  • You will need to take anti- rejection medicine for the rest of your life.
  • Please take all medicines exactly as they were prescribed. If you have any questions or if you don't understand any directions, please call your transplant coordinator.
  • Check with your transplant nephrologist before starting any new medicine that has been prescribed by any other doctor. This includes herbals, vitamin, supplements, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Do not stop taking a medicine or change the dose without the OK from your nephrologist. If you are having bad side effects tell your doctor.
  • You may have other side effects not listed. Call your doctor if you have new symptoms or symptoms that get worse.
Did you know?
After surgery, you are under the care of the transplant nephrologists. Should you need a hospital stay for any reason after transplant surgery, the coordinator will stop in and see you to make sure you are taking immunosuppressant medicines.