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Living With Immunosuppression After an Organ Transplant

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Lifetime Precautions After an Organ Transplant

Over the next six months to a year after an organ transplant, your health care team will probably reduce your medication. You'll settle into the "maintenance phase" on a lower dose. At this point, you can usually relax some of your safety measures. You won't be as susceptible to infection. But you should still take precautions. Wash your hands regularly and limit contact with people who are sick or recently vaccinated.

If you ever have an episode where your body rejects a new organ (organ rejection), your doctor may need to change your medications or boost the dosage of immunosuppressant drugs. This is called "anti-rejection immunotherapy." Since your immune system will be further suppressed, you'll need to take those extra precautions again.

Your doctor may also occasionally need to change some of the medicines. Some may not work as well over time. New and more effective drugs may also come on the market that will replace old ones.

Taking Medication After an Organ Transplant

Living with an organ transplant usually means taking a lot of medication, probably for the rest of your life. Most people take six to 12 different medications daily, Punch says. It could be more. Taking so many pills may sound daunting.

"Some people are overwhelmed by the number of medications they have to take," says Richard Perez, MD, PhD, and the director of the Transplant Center at the University of California Medical Center at Davis. "But you have to remember that a lot of these patients were sick, and already on a complicated medication regimen anyway."

In fact, Perez says, many people find that their drug regimen is less complicated after a transplant.

Taking medication is absolutely crucial to staying healthy. Here are some tips.

  • When it comes to taking organ transplant drugs, strictly follow your health care provider's advice.
  • Use weekly or daily pillboxes to set up doses beforehand, and keep track.
  • Use alarm clocks, timers, or digital watches to help you remember doses.
  • Ask your family members to help you stay on a medication schedule.
  • Keep drugs away from children and pets.
  • Store medication in a cool, dry place.
  • Keep a list of all your drugs somewhere obvious.
  • If you miss a dose, don't assume you can double up with your next one.
  • Keep track of how much medicine you have left. Always call the pharmacy for refills early.
  • If your doctor agrees, take medication with food to prevent gastrointestinal side effects.
  • Set up doses so that they coincide with other daily activities, such as brushing your teeth, eating lunch, or going to bed.
  • Never stop taking a medication without your health care provider's approval.

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