The value of electron microscopy in the diagnosis of chronic renal allograft rejection

B. Ivanyi, E. Kemeny, E. Szederkenyi, F. Marofka, P. Szenohradszky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Citations (Scopus)


The main causes of the late dysfunction of renal allografts are chronic rejection and chronic transplant nephropathy. Both are clinicopathologic entities, with a similar clinical presentation, but different histologic appearances. Chronic rejection is characterized by the presence of alloantigen-induced lesions (transplant arteriopathy and transplant glomerulopathy), and chronic transplant nephropathy by nonspecific sclerosing changes. The incidence of transplant arteriopathy and transplant glomerulopathy is relatively low. Electron microscopy (EM) may overcome the limitations in the histologic diagnosis of chronic rejection, because it verifies alloantigen-induced chronic microvasculopathy in the peritubular capillaries (transplant capillaropathy), and identifies transplant glomerulopathy more precisely than does light microscopy. To assess the value of EM in chronic rejection diagnosis, a retrospective search for transplant capillaropathy and transplant glomerulopathy was performed in a consecutive series of 91 biopsies performed ≥6 months after implantation (median: 26 months, range 6-186) and the diagnoses were reclassified on the basis of the ultrastructural findings. The definitions used were: transplant capillaropathy: a peritubular capillary profile with seven or more circumferential basement membrane layers, or at least three profiles with five or six circumferential layers; ultrastructurally verified transplant glomerulopathy: thickening of the capillary wall in at least three loops in consequence of the widening of the subendothelial space by abnormal basement membrane material, and the formation of a new layer(s) of basal lamina; and chronic rejection: the presence of transplant capillaropathy and/or transplant glomerulopathy and/or transplant arteriopathy. Histologically, chronic transplant nephropathy, chronic rejection, chronic cyclosporine nephrotoxicity, glomerulonephritis, acute rejection, "suspicious" for acute rejection, and "others" were diagnosed in 37%, 34%, 21%, 19%, 57%, 30%, and 5% of the specimens, respectively. The results of EM increased the diagnosis of chronic rejection to 69% of the cases, and decreased chronic transplant nephropathy to 15%. The individual incidence of transplant capillaropathy and transplant glomerulopathy was 79% and 57%, respectively, and their cumulative incidence was 92%. Five biopsies exhibited merely transplant arteriopathy. A late dysfunction typically had more than one cause; the most frequent combination was chronic rejection and acute rejection. In conclusion, the EM search for transplant capillaropathy and transplant glomerulopathy doubled the frequency of the diagnosis of chronic rejection. Currently, the evaluation of renal allograft biopsies from recipients with a late dysfunction relies on standard light microscopy. Because light microscopy per se proved to be insensitive in the diagnosis of chronic rejection, incorporation of EM into the evaluation of late dysfunction biopsies is strongly recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1208
Number of pages9
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 31 2001


  • Chronic allograft nephropathy
  • Diagnostic accuracy
  • Electron microscopy
  • Graft dysfunction
  • Peritubular capillary
  • Rejection
  • Transplant glomerulopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The value of electron microscopy in the diagnosis of chronic renal allograft rejection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this