Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Organ Transplants: Antirejection Medicines
People who have had an organ transplant need antirejection medicines. This is because the
immune system will try to destroy the new organ. These medicines are also called immunosuppressants. They weaken your immune system and
decrease your body's ability to destroy your new organ. But they also decrease how well your body can fight infections, cancer, and other diseases.
Here are some of the medicines you may need to take. You may have to take other medicines to prevent infection or to control other health problems you have (like high blood pressure).
high dose of a steroid medicine is given right before
your transplant. It decreases your immune system's activity. It also reduces
inflammation and prevents rejection. A high dose is usually continued for a few days after your surgery. Then the dosage is slowly reduced to the lowest dose that helps prevent rejection.
Taking high doses
of steroid medicine for just a few days may cause short-term side effects. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, sleep problems, and
anxiety. High doses can sometimes cause more severe side effects, such as
extreme agitation, paranoia,
psychosis, and hallucinations.
Using steroid medicine for a long time can
glaucoma or steroid-induced
These medicines include prednisone or methylprednisolone.
These medicines block the message that causes rejection. You
probably will always need to take calcineurin inhibitors.
Side effects include high blood
pressure, too much potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia), and kidney problems.
These medicines can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, high cholesterol,
These medicines include tacrolimus and cyclosporine.
These medicines prevent the immune cells
from multiplying. They prevent your immune system from
attacking and destroying the donor organ.
Common side effects can include
nausea, anemia, high
triglycerides, and intestinal upset.
These medicines include mycophenolate mofetil,
azathioprine, and sirolimus.
These antibodies block the growth of immune cells that are responsible for rejection. They are used early after transplantation along with
calcineurin inhibitors and antiproliferative agents.
These medicines include daclizumab, basiliximab, and rituximab.
These medicines deplete
the body's immune cells for a short time. They are used in the hours and days
right after your organ transplant. They prevent your body from rejecting the
donor organ. They may also be used again if your body starts to reject the
They are often used to reduce early use of calcineurin inhibitors,
which can have serious side effects. Side effects of polyclonal antibodies
include fever, itching, and joint pain.
These medicines include antithymocyte globulin-equine
and antithymocyte globulin-rabbit.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofAugust 14, 2016
Current as of:
August 14, 2016
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.