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J Heart Lung Transplant. 2009 Jun;28(6):579-84. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2009.02.012. Epub 2009 May 5.

Cause of death in pediatric and infant heart transplant recipients: review of a 20-year, single-institution cohort.

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Departments of Pathology, Pediatrics and Surgery, Loma Linda University and Children's Hospital, 11234 Anderson Street, Loma Linda, CA 92354, USA.



As infant and pediatric heart transplantation becomes more common, there is a growing need to better understand the causes of failure or death, if we are to continue to improve the outcome in these children.


A multidisciplinary team reviewed all deaths occurring in the cohort of infants and children transplanted during the first 20 years of the Loma Linda Pediatric Heart Transplant program, with 2 additional years of follow-up beyond the 20-year accrual period, and classified them as to cause.


There were 169 deaths among 421 recipients, with a median follow-up of 9.7 years. Autopsy was performed in 128 cases. The causes of death, in decreasing order of frequency, included acute rejection (26.0%), infection (16.0%), cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) (14.2%), technical issues (8.3%), acute graft dysfunction (6.5%), neoplasm (7.1%), chronic graft dysfunction (4.7%) and miscellaneous factors (10.1%), and in twelve deaths (7.1%) the cause was unclassified. Acute graft dysfunction and technical issues accounted for nearly two-thirds of the deaths in the first 30 days after transplant, while acute rejection resulted in the largest number of deaths after the first year (30.4%), with CAV a close second (23.5%).


Acute graft dysfunction and technical issues were the most frequent cause of early death. Late deaths were most often due to acute rejection and CAV, which differs somewhat from the experience reported in adults. Acute rejection was the single most important cause of late mortality, and resulted in a significant number of late sudden and unexpected deaths.

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