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Medicine (Baltimore). 2010 May;89(3):166-75. doi: 10.1097/MD.0b013e3181dfa59c.

Infectious and non-infectious neurologic complications in heart transplant recipients.

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Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain.


Neurologic complications are important causes of morbidity and mortality in heart transplant (HT) recipients. New immunomodulating agents have improved survival rates, although some have been associated with a high rate of neurologic complications (infectious and non-infectious). We conducted this study to analyze the frequency of these complications, before and after the use of daclizumab induction therapy. We reviewed all neurologic complications in our HT cohort, comparing infectious with non-infectious complications over 2 periods of time in which different induction therapies were used (316 patients with OKT3 or antithymocyte globulin from 1988 to 2002, and 68 patients with daclizumab from 2003 to 2006). Neurologic complications were found in 75/384 patients (19.5%) with a total of 78 episodes. Non-infectious complications accounted for 68% of the 78 episodes of neurologic complications. A total of 51 patients and 53 episodes were detailed as follows: 25 episodes of stroke (25 of 78 total episodes, 32%; 19 ischemic, 6 hemorrhagic); 7 neuropathies; 6 seizures; 4 episodes of transient ischemic attack (TIA); 3 anoxic encephalopathy; 2 each brachial plexus palsy and metabolic encephalopathy; and 1 each myoclonia, central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma, subdural hematoma, and Cotard syndrome. Mean time to presentation of stroke, TIA, and encephalopathy was 1 day (range, 1-19 d) posttransplant. Mortality rate among non-infectious complications was 12/53 (22.6%). Infectious complications accounted for 32% of the 78 total episodes. We found 25 episodes in 24 patients: 17 herpes zoster (median, 268 d after HT), 3 CNS aspergillosis (median, 90 d after HT), 1 CNS toxoplasmosis and tuberculosis (51 d after HT), 1 pneumococcal meningitis (402 d after HT), and 2 Listeria meningitis (median, 108 d after HT). The 3 patients with CNS aspergillosis died. The mortality rate among patients with infectious neurologic complications was 12% (42.8% if the CNS was involved). When we compared the OKT3-ATG and daclizumab groups, we found that the incidence of non-infectious complications was 15.1% vs. 7.3%, respectively, and the incidence of infectious complications was 7.5% vs. 1.4%, respectively. All but 1 opportunistic infection occurred in the OKT3-ATG time period. In conclusion, a wide variety of neurologic complications affected 19.5% of HT recipients. Non-infectious causes clearly predominated, but infections still accounted for 32% of the episodes. New monoclonal induction therapies have contributed to diminished CNS opportunistic infections in our program.

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