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Cyclosporine

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Also known as: [Often referred to by brand name (see MedlinePlus Drug Information)]
Formal name: Cyclosporine

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant drug used to reduce the body's natural defenses. This test measures the amount of cyclosporine in the blood.

When people undergo an organ transplant, their immune system recognizes the graft as "foreign" and will begin to attack it just as it would any invasive bacteria or virus. Cyclosporine diminishes the ability of certain white blood cells in the immune system to respond to this foreign tissue. The transplanted organ then has a better chance of survival and will not be as easily rejected by the transplant recipient's immune system. Cyclosporine is used routinely in the transplantation of kidney, heart, liver, and other organs.

The immunosuppressant qualities of cyclosporine have also been found to be useful in treating symptoms of some autoimmune and other disorders. These conditions are characterized by the immune system reacting to the body's own cells or tissue. Cyclosporine helps to control the immune response in these cases, decreasing the severity of symptoms. Some examples of these conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, aplastic anemia, and Crohn disease.

When the symptoms in these cases are judged to be severe, extensive, and disabling, cyclosporine may be prescribed. Usually, the symptoms have not diminished with other treatments or medications. Cyclosporine is used with caution in these cases and needs to be carefully monitored with blood tests.

Testing cyclosporine levels in the blood can help ensure that drug levels are in a range that will be therapeutic. If the level is too low, organ rejection may occur (in the case of transplantation) or symptoms may reappear (autoimmune cases). It is also important to ensure that the level is not too high and will not result in toxicity.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed. Samples are typically drawn 12 hours after the last dose. On mornings when someone is scheduled to have their cyclosporine level checked, the person should not take the medicine until after their blood is drawn.