Background Kidney transplantation offers better outcomes compared to dialysis, but requires patients to adhere to an ongoing and complex self-management regimen. Medication nonadherence remains a leading cause of transplant loss, and inadequate self-management undermines transplantation and other health outcomes. We aimed to describe kidney transplant recipients' motivations, challenges, and attitudes toward self-management. Study Design Systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies. Setting & Population Kidney transplant recipients. Search Strategy & Sources MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL were searched to October 2014. Analytical Approach Thematic synthesis. Results 50 studies involving 1,238 recipients aged 18 to 82 years across 19 countries were included. We identified 5 themes: empowerment through autonomy (achieving mastery, tracking against tangible targets, developing bodily intuition, routinizing and problem solving, and adaptive coping), prevailing fear of consequences (inescapable rejection anxiety, aversion to dialysis, minimizing future morbidity, trivialization and denial, and defining acceptable risks), burdensome treatment and responsibilities (frustrating ambiguities, inadvertent forgetfulness, intrusive side effects, reversing ingrained behaviors, and financial hardship), overmedicalizing life (dominating focus, evading patienthood, and succumbing to burnout), and social accountability and motivation (demonstrating gratitude toward medical team, indebtedness to donor, and peer learning). Limitations Non-English articles were excluded. Conclusions Self-efficacy and social accountability are motivators for self-management, although adherence can be mentally and physically taxing. Multicomponent interventions incorporating personalized care planning, education, psychosocial support, decision aids, and self-monitoring tools may foster self-management capacity and improve transplantation outcomes.
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