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J Heart Lung Transplant. 1996 Feb;15(2):124-35.

Prognostic determinants of six-month morbidity and mortality in heart transplant recipients. The Italian Study Group on Infection in Heart Transplantation.

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National Research Council, Clinical Physiology Institute, Milan, Italy.



Knowledge of time course and risk factors for morbidity and mortality may allow better cardiac graft allocation, surveillance timing, and planning of immunosuppressive strategies.


Six-month morbidity and mortality were retrospectively analyzed in a multiinstitutional series of 645 heart transplant recipients.


During a 3432 patient-months follow-up, 87 patients died of infection (n = 11), rejection (n = 11), multiorgan failure (n = 9) and other transplant-related causes (n = 56); six-month survival rate was 86%. Three hundred thirty-seven recipients had 967 treated rejection episodes (2.87 episodes/patient with rejection, lethality 3.2%); 223 major infectious episodes occurred in 162 patients (1.38 episodes/infected patient, lethality 7%). Six-month rejection and infection-free survival rates were 44% and 73%. Total mortality and cause-specific morbidity sharply declined after the first month; 160 patients (25%) had no events during follow-up. At multivariable analysis, significant risk factors for mortality were postoperative acute kidney failure, prolonged cardiopulmonary bypass time, and previous cardiac surgery. Rejection was associated with steroid-free and globulin-free immunosuppression and infection was associated with steroid immunosuppression, cytolytic treatment, venous lines placement greater than 7 days, and mechanical ventilation time. No single or combination of variables was able to discriminate patients with an event-free course.


Morbidity and mortality have the highest incidence during the early posttransplantation phase. Preoperative variables are of limited value with respect to immunosuppressive treatment in predicting outcome. Infection is far less frequent than rejection but, in view of the higher lethality rate, deserves a vigorous effort for prevention, which is best addressed by appropriate modulation of immunosuppressive strategies.

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