An overview of organ transplant rejection

Rejection happens when your immune system thinks your transplanted organ is foreign and attacks it. It is important to know that this does not always mean you will lose your organ, and that rejection is something your transplant team will also be monitoring for you.

The first few months

After the first few months

It is well known that after your transplant, the first few months are the period of greatest risk for rejection. Special care should be taken during this time. Check yourself carefully as directed by your transplant team.

You may not have to watch as carefully, but you should continue to remain alert to changes. It may be recommended that you take your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure at home daily, or as often as your transplant team recommends, but especially any time you aren’t feeling well. You may also be advised to weigh yourself at the same time each day.

When you can recognize rejection in its earliest stages, you may be able to report it and take action to help prevent it. The goal is to be alert but not anxious.

Your body has a natural way of protecting itself from things it identifies to be foreign, such as harmful bacteria and viruses, using its defense system (the immune system). Since your transplanted organ is not your own, your body will also recognize this as foreign and activate your immune system.

A type of white blood cell (lymphocytes) produces proteins (antibodies) that protect you from foreign things. Lymphocytes can’t tell the difference between a transplanted organ and cold-causing germs. When they come to your defense, they can set off a rejection episode.