Association of Whole Blood Tacrolimus Concentrations with Kidney Injury in Heart Transplantation Patients

Maaike A. Sikma, Claudine C. Hunault, Johannes H. Kirkels, Marianne C. Verhaar, Jozef Kesecioglu and Dylan W. de Lang

Published: 01/06/2018


Background and Objectives

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is frequently observed after heart transplantation and is associated with morbidity and mortality. However, many confounding factors also contribute to the development of AKI in heart transplants. We hypothesized that supratherapeutic whole-blood tacrolimus trough concentrations are associated with AKI.


In a retrospective observational cohort from April 2005 to December 2012, all adult heart transplantation patients were included. AKI was assessed in the first 2 weeks after transplantation as classified by the Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes Network (KDIGO). Whole-blood tacrolimus trough concentrations were determined from day 1 to day 14 and at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months post-transplantation. The therapeutic range was 9 to 15 ng/ml in the first 2 months and tapered to 5–8 ng/ml thereafter. The relationship between supratherapeutic tacrolimus trough concentrations and AKI was evaluated. The impact of various potentially confounding factors on tacrolimus concentrations and AKI was considered.


We included 110 patients. AKI occurred in 57% of patients in the first week. Recovery from AKI was seen in 24%. The occurrence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) was 19% at 1 year. Whole-blood tacrolimus trough concentrations were often supratherapeutic and, despite correction for confounding factors, independently associated with AKI (OR 1.66; 95% CI 1.20–2.31).


Supratherapeutic whole-blood tacrolimus trough concentrations are independently associated with the development of AKI in adult heart transplantation patients. More stringent dosing of tacrolimus early after transplantation may be critical in preserving the kidney function.

Full Access Link: European Journal of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics