Cardiac transplantation in adult patients with mental retardation: do outcomes support consensus guidelines?

Psychosomatics. Mar-Apr 2012;53(2):133-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2011.12.011.


Background: Selection criteria guidelines list mental retardation as a relative contraindication to heart transplantation, but not to kidney transplantation.

Objective: The authors present a case series of adults with mental retardation or comparable acquired intellectual disability who underwent heart transplantation. They discuss the literature on heart and kidney transplantation in people with mental retardation and the ethical reasoning that guides how recipients of solid organ grafts are chosen.

Method: Literature review and retrospective review of long-term outcomes for five adult patients with mental retardation or comparable disability who received heart transplants.

Results: Among these cases, survival times to date ranged from 4 to 16 years, with a median survival of greater than 12 years. Medical non-adherence was a significant factor in only 1 of the 5 cases. In that case, the patient's medical non-adherence was due to a functional decline in the primary caretaker.

Conclusion: People with mental retardation can receive long-term benefit from heart transplantation when they have the cognitive and social support necessary to ensure adherence to post-transplant regimens. There is no ethical or medical reason for guidelines to consider mental retardation, in and of itself, a contraindication to heart transplantation. The totality of the individual patient's circumstances should be considered in assessing transplant candidacy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Consensus
  • Contraindications
  • Heart Transplantation* / ethics
  • Heart Transplantation* / mortality
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Kidney Transplantation / ethics
  • Kidney Transplantation / mortality
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support
  • Survival Rate
  • Transplantation
  • Treatment Outcome