The kidney transplant failure experience: a longitudinal case study

Paul Gill, L Lowes

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To explore participants' experiences of kidney transplant failure. Background. Kidney transplants are effective and efficient but not without complications. About 7% to 12% of kidney transplants fail within a year, and rates of failure increase over time. Graft failure can have profound effects, often resulting in depression and, occasionally, suicidal feelings. Despite these issues, the personal dimensions of graft failure have been poorly researched.

One donor-recipient couple experienced irreversible graft rejection immediately after a kidney transplant. This article is a longitudinal case study of this family's experiences. Data were collected through 3 semistructured interviews, conducted before the transplant and at 3 and 10 months after the transplant. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and data coded into categories arising from the participants' accounts.

Transplantation represented a significant source of hope. Fear of transplant failure was a major concern, but was dealt with by using emotion-focused coping mechanisms. Graft refjection was devastating, causing feelings of grief, loss, suicide, and depression. Depression improved as physical health and a sense of personal control improved. The recipient felt inadequately prepared for graft failure and poorly supported by health professionals.

The primary source of grief and depression appeared to be related to the receipients's "loss of imagined future" (ie, the life that she anticipated after transplant). Study findings have potential implications for the provision of care, information, and support for patients and their families before and after transplantation and for future related research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114 - 121
Number of pages7
JournalProgress in Transplantation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2009


  • kidney transplantation
  • kidney transplant failure
  • graft failure
  • longitudinal study


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