Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 18 Aug 2021

Immunosuppression is the reduction of the body's immune system which can alter the ability of the body's defense mechanisms to prevent diseases, particularly certain infections and cancers. 


Patient's with immunosuppression are said to be immunosuppressed or immunocompromised.  A patient with a normal functioning immune system or a previously immunocompromised patient whose immune system has recovered is said to be immunocompetent

A medication that causes immunosuppression can be described as immunosuppressive or immunosuppressant.



Immunosuppression can occur in several clinical situations:

  • intentionally induced as the effect of treatments such as medications (immunotherapies), ionizing radiation, plasmapheresis and surgery (e.g. splenectomy)
    • to treat disease (e.g. autoimmune diseases)
    • to prepare for bone marrow transplantation
    • to prevent rejection of donor organs and tissues
  • unintentionally induced by medications or other medical therapies
    • side effects of certain medications e.g. chemotherapy
  • the result of disease

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