Background Kidney recipients maintaining a prolonged allograft survival in the absence of immunosuppressive drugs and without evidence of rejection are supposed to be exceptional. The ERA-EDTA-DESCARTES working group together with Nantes University launched a European-wide survey to identify new patients, describe them and estimate their frequency for the first time. Methods Seventeen coordinators distributed a questionnaire in 256 transplant centres and 28 countries in order to report as many 'operationally tolerant' patients (TOL; defined as having a serum creatinine <1.7 mg/dL and proteinuria <1 g/day or g/g creatinine despite at least 1 year without any immunosuppressive drug) and 'almost tolerant' patients (minimally immunosuppressed patients (MIS) receiving low-dose steroids) as possible. We reported their number and the total number of kidney transplants performed at each centre to calculate their frequency. Results One hundred and forty-seven questionnaires were returned and we identified 66 TOL (61 with complete data) and 34 MIS patients. Of the 61 TOL patients, 26 were previously described by the Nantes group and 35 new patients are presented here. Most of them were noncompliant patients. At data collection, 31/35 patients were alive and 22/31 still operationally tolerant. For the remaining 9/31, 2 were restarted on immunosuppressive drugs and 7 had rising creatinine of whom 3 resumed dialysis. Considering all patients, 10-year death-censored graft survival post-immunosuppression weaning reached 85% in TOL patients and 100% in MIS patients. With 218 913 kidney recipients surveyed, cumulative incidences of operational tolerance and almost tolerance were estimated at 3 and 1.5 per 10 000 kidney recipients, respectively. Conclusions In kidney transplantation, operational tolerance and almost tolerance are infrequent findings associated with excellent long-term death-censored graft survival.
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