Would access to device therapies improve transplant outcomes for adults with congenital heart disease? Analysis of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)

J Heart Lung Transplant. 2011 Apr;30(4):395-401. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2010.09.008. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Background: Patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) now survive into adulthood and often present with end-stage heart failure (HF). HF management and approach to orthotopic heart transplant (OHT) may differ from adults without CHD. We sought to compare OHT waitlist characteristics and outcomes for these 2 groups.

Methods: The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)/United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database was used to identify adults (≥18 years) listed for OHT from 2005 to 2009. The cohort was divided into those with or without CHD.

Results: Of 9,722 adults included, 314 (3%) had CHD. Adults with CHD were younger (35 ± 13 vs 52 ± 12 years, p < 0.01) and more often had undergone prior cardiac surgery (85% vs. 34%, p < 0.01). Patients with CHD were less likely to have a defibrillator (44% vs 75%, p < 0.01) or ventricular assist device (5% vs 14%, p < 0.01) and were more likely to be listed at the lowest urgency status than patients without CHD (64% vs 44%, p < 0.01). Fewer CHD patients achieved OHT (53% vs 65%, p < 0.001). Although overall waitlist mortality did not differ between groups (10% vs 8%, p = 0.15), patients with CHD were more likely to experience cardiovascular death (60% vs 40%, p = 0.03), including sudden in 44% and due to HF in 16%.

Conclusions: Despite lower urgency status, patients with CHD have greater cardiovascular mortality awaiting OHT than those without. Increased defibrillator use could improve survival to OHT, because sudden death is common. VAD support may benefit select patients, but experience in CHD is limited. Referral to specialized adult congenital heart centers can enhance utilization of device therapies and potentially improve waitlist outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Defibrillators, Implantable
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / mortality*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Heart Failure / mortality*
  • Heart Transplantation / mortality*
  • Heart-Assist Devices
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists