Background: Acute rejection commonly occurs within the first year after heart transplantation, and then decreases in frequency with time. Recently, the long-term utility of endomyocardial biopsy during routine annual catheterization has been questioned. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively review the prevalence of biopsy-proven rejection during routine annual catheterization in our patient population, determine whether biopsies late after transplant are useful, and identify factors that correlate with late unsuspected rejection.
Methods: Biopsy results from the annual catheterization were evaluated from 1986 to August 2000. The prevalence of moderate rejection was evaluated and compared with the patient's immunosuppressive regimen; the prevalence of late rejection; and how late rejection correlated with recipient age, number of first-year rejections and presence of sub-therapeutic cyclosporine.
Results: A total of 1108 biopsies were performed in 269 children with a mean follow-up of 5 +/- 3 years (median 5 years, range 1 to 11 years). Three-drug immunosuppressive therapy, including steroids, was used in 93 patients. There was a persistent 8% to 10% prevalence of moderate rejection at up to 10 years post-transplantation. Moderate rejection was more likely in patients: (1). on 3-drug immunosuppressive therapy; (2). with a recipient age >1 year; and (3). with a relatively lower cyclosporine level.
Conclusions: These data suggest that continued surveillance of pediatric transplant patients for acute rejection is indicated for long-term follow-up.