Kidney transplantation (KT) can impact patients’ evaluation of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) as they adapt to their new life with a graft and its changes. Patients may adapt to KT in a different way, depending on whether they were on dialysis prior to transplantation or not (i.e. preemptive group). This may result in lack of measurement invariance between these patients’ groups and/or over time (i.e. response shift, RS) which may invalidate the between-group comparison of HRQoL change scores. The aim of this study was to investigate and compare RS before and after KT between these two patients’ groups. Measurement invariance was investigated between groups and over time with three measurement occasions.


Adult patients completed the SF-36 at the last visit before KT, and 3, 6 months after. A structural equation model-based procedure was used to (i) detect and take into account measurement non-invariance between groups and RS, if appropriate, (ii) identify the period of occurrence of RS, (iii) study the heterogeneity of RS between the two groups.


Before KT (i.e. baseline), measurement invariance was not rejected between dialyzed (n = 196) and preemptive (n = 178) patients’ groups. Between baseline and 3 months after KT, similar uniform recalibration was detected on the general health domain in both groups. Uniform recalibration was found between 3- and 6 months after KT on the vitality domain for preemptive patients only.


HRQoL, adjusted for RS, increased overall for preemptive and dialyzed kidney transplant patients after transplantation. RS may reflect differing adaptation processes following KT.

DOI: 10.1007/s11136-021-02916-z