The immune system is an important body system that recognizes and fights infections. When an organ from another person is transplanted into a recipient, the recipient's immune system recognizes the organ as being different from the normal "self" and attacks the foreign cells.
If the immune system is not modified at the time of transplantation, this immune response will eventually result in rejection of the transplanted organ.
Immunosuppression (anti-rejection) medications weaken the recipient's normal immune response to allow the new transplanted organ to function. Immunosuppressants are a critical part of the transplant process, and taking these medications as prescribed is one of the most important responsibilities of the transplant recipient.
Immunosuppression medications are given in high doses, usually intravenously, at the time of the transplant.
Oral medications are introduced during the hospital stay, and patients go home on oral medications alone. Doses are reduced over time, and the use of multiple medications allows for reduction of the doses of each medicine to minimize side effects.
Immunosuppression medications weaken the body's immune system, and as a result transplant recipients are more susceptible to certain types of infections. Most infections can be prevented with the use of prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics and antiviral medications, which are taken for the first few months after transplant.
Severe infections are rare, but may require hospitalization and modification of the immunosuppression plan.
Immunosuppression medications also increase the risk of certain types of cancers, particularly non-melanoma skin cancers. Proper sun protection and annual dermatology visits are important for all transplant recipients. Additionally, some patients may have increased blood sugar as a result of the medications.
The Memorial Hermann Transplant Center, in collaboration with The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, has been at the forefront of immunosuppression research for decades.
Our program is nationally recognized as a leader in immunosuppression research, pioneering the clinical use of the medications cyclosporine and rapamycin. Our expert team of physicians will tailor the immunosuppression regimen to fit each individual patient's needs.
Contact us to learn more about immunosuppression following transplant or immunosuppression research at (713)704-5200.