Background: Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD) are an important cause of morbidity and mortality after organ transplantation. We sought to better define the prevalence, pathology, current therapeutic approaches, and outcomes of PTLD in a large group of children who had received heart transplants.
Methods: We assessed data on patients followed up at 19 centres in the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study (PHTS) from 1993 to 2002. Probability of freedom from PTLD was assessed along with details of presentation, pathology, treatment, and outcomes. Risk factors for survival and event-free survival were investigated.
Findings: Of 1184 primary transplant recipients, 56 (5%) developed PTLD. Probability of freedom from PTLD was 98% at 1 year, 94% at 3 years, and 92% at 5 years. Mean time to PTLD was 23.8 months. Most common sites of disease were gastrointestinal tract (n=22, 39%) and respiratory system (n=14, 25%). Histology was polymorphic in 35 (65%) and monomorphic in 19 (35%). 47 of 48 cases were of B-cell origin, 39 of 45 (87%) were Epstein-Barr virus positive. Probability of survival was 75% at 1 year, 68% at 3 years, and 67% at 5 years after diagnosis. Death from graft loss was as frequent as death from PTLD.
Interpretation: About 5% of paediatric heart-transplant recipients develop PTLD, almost always of B-cell lineage and driven by Epstein-Barr virus. Although many achieve satisfactory outcomes, mortality remains substantial with death due to progressive disease and allograft loss. Advances in management should focus on strategies to protect the allograft as well as improved therapies for PTLD.