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Keywords:

  • Calcineurin nephrotoxicity;
  • protocol biopsy;
  • subclinical rejection;
  • surveillance

Protocol renal allograft biopsies at fixed time points from transplantation have aided research and provided insights into the pathogenesis of early and late allograft injury. Their role is evolving from research to a clinical management tool needed to detect subclinical pathology requiring treatment adjustment. They frequently reveal unexpected findings and influence therapy in the majority of patients. Detection of subclinical rejection (SCR) remains important despite declining prevalence with triple therapy, the evidence favors treatment, if found. Surveillance biopsies in steroid avoidance and calcineurin inhibitor (CNI) withdrawal programs provide an important safety net against the increased rates of late acute and SCR. Individualization of therapy in high-risk patients and safe reduction of immunosuppression in standard risk individuals becomes possible. Other potentially reversible chronic pathologies that may be detected, include chronic T-cell or antibody-mediated rejection, recurrent disease, BK virus-associated nephropathy, interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy and CNI nephrotoxicity, allowing modifications of therapy to limit ongoing graft injury. Biopsy is safe and inexpensive compared with costs of earlier graft failure and return to dialysis. This review summarizes current evidence on use of surveillance histology for the clinical practice of renal transplantation.