Background: Early detection and treatment of acute rejection in cardiac transplant recipients significantly improves long-term survival. Endomyocardial biopsy is used routinely for diagnosing allograft rejection; however, in young children, this procedure carries some risk. We evaluated serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as a potential surveillance marker of acute cellular rejection.
Methods: Blood samples (n=62) were analyzed from 23 patients and compared with controls (n=18) using an ELISA for VEGF. Results were correlated with endomyocardial biopsy rejection grades.
Results: Mean baseline VEGF levels of the transplant population were consistently higher than controls. Serum VEGF levels were significantly higher during acute cellular rejection when compared with the non-rejecting transplant group (700.7+/-154 pg/ml vs. 190.5+/-29 pg/ml). VEGF decreased two- to eightfold after immunosuppressive therapy in 9 of 11 rejection episodes.
Conclusions: These data suggest that VEGF may play a role in the pathogenesis of acute allograft rejection and it may serve as a reliable serologic surveillance marker.