COMMENTARY

Infections in Transplant Recipients: An Overview

Shmuel Shoham, MD

Disclosures

July 31, 2015

In This Article

Infections in Solid-Organ Transplantation

For many patients, the best long-term solution for chronic advanced organ failure is solid-organ transplantation. Although dialysis and cardiac assist devices can be lifesaving, both require ongoing intimate contact with medical machinery. For long-term survival and quality of life, nothing replaces organ transplantation.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 115,000 solid-organ transplants are performed worldwide every year. Approximately 70% are kidneys (one half of which are from live donors), and 20% are livers (about one fifth of which are from live donors). The rest are primarily hearts, lungs, and pancreases.[1]

Organ transplantation is a major upgrade over end-stage organ disease, but it comes at a cost, which includes a substantially elevated risk for infections. Regardless of the organ, infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in transplant recipients.

Whether an encounter with a transplant recipient occurs in the emergency department, the walk-in clinic, the primary care office, or a specialty referral practice, a working knowledge of what puts organ transplant patients at risk for which infections and when these infections occur is essential. Although this knowledge is important to clinicians practicing in highly developed countries, where most transplantations are performed, organ transplantation is also practiced in less well-developed countries.[2]

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