BACKGROUND: Chronic allograft nephropathy (CAN) remains the leading cause of late renal allograft loss that is minimally responsive to therapy once graft dysfunction is clinically evident. A screening test capable of identifying individuals at high risk for CAN would be a valuable adjunct to patient care, but to be cost effective, should be administered during routine evaluations by transplantation clinicians. STUDY DESIGN: We have compared the resistive index (RI) as measured by Doppler ultrasonography with subsequent biopsy findings on 91 renal allograft recipients who had a subsequent protocol-directed biopsy at least 3 months after renal transplant. All ultrasonography was performed by the transplantation surgical staff without involving the radiology department or a separate appointment time. RESULTS: Twenty-one patients had RI ≥ 80 (average 621 days posttransplantation). Among these individuals, the subsequent incidence of CAN was 38%. Length of time between initial assessment of increased RI and biopsy-proved CAN averaged 233 days. The remaining 70 patients with RI < 80 had an incidence of CAN of 11.4% (p = 0.018). There were minimal complications from these biopsies. Sensitivity and specificity of an elevated RI in predicting CAN were 50% and 83%, respectively. The negative predicted value of an elevated RI in determination of CAN was 89%. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that elevated RI is an early predictor of histologically relevant CAN, possibly a result of burgeoning vasculopathy. The technical expertise required to make this appraisal is well within the capabilities of transplantation surgeons and trainees. Early evidence of CAN may allow for a targeted change in therapy before clinically significant injury. Ultrasonography should become a routine part of a transplantation clinic evaluation.
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