Usefulness of routine surveillance endomyocardial biopsy 6 months after heart transplantation
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Background: Endomyocardial biopsy (EMB) remains the gold standard for detecting rejection episodes in orthotopic heart transplant (OTH) patients. Follow-up protocols vary widely between transplant centers. At our center, we have implemented a conservative strategy protocol and here we report our outcomes. Methods: Patients from 2 cohorts were used for comparison analysis. OHT recipients from 1990 to 1995 comprised the standard strategy group, and those from 2004 to 2009 comprised the conservative strategy group. Survival outcomes and rejection episodes were compared between groups. Results: Mean age at OHT was 56 ± 10 years in the standard strategy group and 53 ± 10 years in the conservative strategy group. Both groups were predominantly composed of white men. The etiology of congestive heart failure was ischemic cardiomyopathy in more than 50% of the patients in both groups. From 6 to 12 months after OHT, we found that the number of episodes of rejection/total number of EMBs was 4.9% (8/163) in the standard group vs 2.0% (1/50) in the conservative group. From 12 to 24 months after transplant, the rate was 2.5% (8/320) in the standard group vs 11.9% (5/42) in the conservative group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Surveillance EMB after 6 months post-OHT in patients receiving contemporary immunosuppression is associated with a low yield of EMB-confirmed rejection in the absence of a clinical indication or echocardiographic findings that support clinical rejection. Most episodes of cellular rejection are mild and do not warrant treatment or a change in immunosuppression. The frequency of EMBs did not correlate with an increased risk of cardiac allograft vasculopathy or death. © 2012 International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.