Transplant Rejection: Definition, Signs, and Prevention

Topic: Surgery
Words: 434 Pages: 1

Transplant Rejection

Transplant rejection occurs when a recipient’s body discards an organ from a donor. Transplant rejection occurs due to immunological mechanisms that result in the production of antibodies against tissues. The two types of disease likely to occur after transplant rejection are graft versus host disease or host versus graft disease. Host versus graft disease occurs when antigens in the graft are detected by the recipient’s immune system and antibodies produced against them (Young, 2020). The antibodies combat the foreign antigens that are part of the graft, hence rejection. When this occurs, the graft has to be removed so that the immune reactions are decreased and normality restored.

Graft Versus Host Disease

Graft versus host disease occurs when a graft fights against the recipient, causing rejection. This is common with transplanted bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells in a host. These cells treat the recipient’s body as foreign and react against it. Owing to the immunologic nature of peripheral blood cells and bone marrow cells, antibodies are produced against the host (Zeiser & Blazar, 2017). The antibodies result in immune reactions and the formation of immune complexes, effectively amounting to rejection. Rejection of grafts occurs due to the differences that exist amongst people in their genetics and immunologic constitution.

Signs of Transplant Rejection

When grafts are transplanted into a recipient, the situation is monitored for possible rejection. Signs of rejection depend on the type of organ or tissue transplanted. The signs of rejection usually indicate the deficient or ineffective ability of the transplanted organs to perform the required functions (Black et al., 2018. The cardinal signs of fever and flu-like symptoms like headaches, chills, and pain are common among all rejections. One of the most common organ transplants is kidney transplants, and rejection presents with the inability of the body to excrete urine effectively. This rejection presents with tenderness around the kidney, sudden weight gain, increased serum creatinine, and fluid retention that causes swelling.

Prevention of Transplant Rejection

Transplant rejection is usually avoided through immunosuppression technologies that involve inactivating a host’s immune system to ensure it does not react to the graft. Immunosuppression is achieved using certain drugs such as corticosteroids that reduce the production of antibodies (Black et al., 2018). These drugs also decrease the sensitivity of the body’s mechanisms to ensure they do not detect foreign tissue. Crucial tests to determine the compatibility of grafts, such as blood grouping, are also done to ensure the blood group is the same and prevent rejection. Genetic mechanisms are also used to estimate the genetic proximity between graft and recipient and prevent rejection.


Black, C. K., Termanini, K. M., Aguirre, O., Hawksworth, J. S., & Sosin, M. (2018). Solid organ transplantation in the 21st century. Annals of Translational Medicine, 6(20), 409–409. Web.

Young, J. W. (2020). Alternative mechanisms that mediate graft-versus-host disease in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplants. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 130(9), 4532–4535. Web.

Zeiser, R., & Blazar, B. R. (2017). Acute graft-versus-host disease — Biologic process, prevention, and therapy. New England Journal of Medicine, 377(22), 2167–2179. Web.

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