Background. With stressors of dialysis prekidney transplantation (KT) and restoration of kidney function post-KT, it is likely that KT recipients experience a decline in functional status while on the waitlist and improvements post-KT. Methods. We leveraged 224 832 KT recipients from the national registry (SRTR, February 1990-May 2019) with measured Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS, 0%-100%) at listing, KT admission, and post-KT. We quantified the change in KPS from listing to KT using generalized linear models. We described post-KT KPS trajectories using adjusted mixed-effects models and tested whether those trajectories differed by age, sex, race, and diabetes status using a Wald test among all KT recipients. We then quantified risk adverse post-KT outcomes (mortality and all-cause graft loss [ACGL]) by preoperative KPS and time-varying KPS. Results. Mean KPS declined from listing (83.7%) to admission (78.9%) (mean = 4.76%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: -4.82, -4.70). After adjustment, mean KPS improved post-KT (slope = 0.89%/y, 95% CI: 0.87, 0.91); younger, female, non-Black, and diabetic recipients experienced greater post-KT improvements (Pinteractions< 0.001). Lower KPS (per 10% decrease) at admission was associated with greater mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.11) and ACGL (aHR = 1.08, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.09) risk. Lower post-KT KPS (per 10% decrease; time-varying) were more strongly associated with mortality (aHR = 1.93, 95% CI: 1.92, 1.94) and ACGL (aHR = 1.84, 95% CI: 1.83, 1.85). Conclusions. Functional status declines pre-KT and improves post-KT in the national registry. Despite post-KT improvements, poorer functional status at KT and post-KT are associated with greater mortality and ACGL risk. Because of its dynamic nature, clinicians should repeatedly screen for lower functional status pre-KT to refer vulnerable patients to prehabilitation in hopes of reducing risk of adverse post-KT outcomes.
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