The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.
Cardiac rejection| Volume 20, ISSUE 3, P316-321, March 2001

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Plasmapheresis and cyclophosphamide in the treatment of humoral rejection after heart transplantation


      Background: Clinical reports on humoral rejection after heart transplantation showed that these episodes were often more severe than those mediated through T lymphocytes and that the patient’s prognosis was significantly worsened.


      To evaluate the impact of plasmapheresis on the course of humoral rejection with hemodynamic compromise (HRHC) episodes, we retrospectively investigated the records of 1,108 heart transplant patients. All patients received triple-drug immunosuppression (cyclosporine a, azathioprine, prednisone) and cytolytic antibodies for induction. Between April 1986 and December 1990, HRHC episodes were treated with cortisone boli and cytolytic antibodies for at least 3 days (Group A). Between January 1991 and April 1999, HRHC episodes were treated with cortisone boli, cytolytic antibodies, and plasmapheresis for at least 3 days (Group B). All patients who survived their first HRHC episode received cyclophosphamide instead of azathioprine as maintenance immunosuppression.


      Altogether we observed 29 HRHC episodes. In 11 cases, no therapy could be administered or the therapy regimen did not correspond to either Protocol A or B. In the remaining 18 HRHC episodes, 7 episodes in 7 patients were treated without plasmapheresis (Group A), but only 2 patients survived, whereas in 11 HRHC episodes in 6 patients, therapy included plasmapheresis (Group B) and all patients survived (p = 0.002). Four of 6 patients who received cyclophosphamide after their first HRHC episode experienced at least 1 further HRHC episode.


      Plasmapheresis seems to improve outcomes in HRHC. However, cyclophosphamide as a maintenance immunosuppressive drug failed to prevent further humoral rejection episodes.
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