A Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial of Steroid Withdrawal after Pediatric Renal Transplantation


Corresponding author: Mark R. Benfield, Benfield@uab.edu


In an effort to reduce rejection, extend allograft survival and minimize complications, we hypothesized that robust immunosuppression during the first 6 months after transplantation would allow for the safe withdrawal of steroids. A total of 274 pediatric subjects were enrolled and received an anti-CD25 antibody, sirolimus, calcineurin inhibitor and steroids. At 6 months after transplantation, subjects were randomized to steroid withdrawal (n = 73) versus continued low-dose steroids (n = 59). This study was stopped prior to target enrollment because of the incidence of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. At the time of study termination, 132 subjects had been randomized and were available for analysis. At 18 months after transplantation, there was no difference in the standardized height z score; however, the standardized height velocity was greater in the steroid withdrawal group compared to the control group (p = 0.033). There were no differences in acute rejection episodes between treatment groups. The 3-year allograft survival rate was 84.5% in the control group and 98.6% in the steroid withdrawal group (p = 0.002). The immunosuppressive protocol utilized in this study allowed for the withdrawal of steroids without an increased risk of rejection or allograft loss. However, the complications associated with the use of this immunosuppressive protocol were too high to recommend its routine use in pediatric patients.