Trends in the Use of Inotropes to List Adult Heart Transplant Candidates at Status 1A

Circ Heart Fail. 2017 Dec;10(12):e004483. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.117.004483.


Background: The number of adult heart transplant candidates waiting at the most urgent status 1A has increased over time despite the expansion of geographic sharing of hearts in 2006. We aimed to determine whether candidates listed with inotropes contribute to the excess status 1A candidates.

Methods and results: The initial registrations of all adult heart-only candidates listed from 2000 to 2015 were analyzed using the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients data set. Trends in listing status, justifications, and candidate factors were measured. Adjusted trends in listing status pre- and post-geographic sharing were estimated using multilevel logistic regression. Competing risks models provided trends in transplant-free waitlist survival. There were 46 853 adult heart-alone listings during 2000 to 2015. Pre-sharing, status 1A listing was unchanged over time (adjusted odds ratio, 0.98; 95% confidence interval, 0.78-1.23). Post-sharing, the adjusted odds of status 1A listing increased 117% over 9 years (adjusted odds ratio 2.17, 95% confidence interval, 1.82-2.58). The number of candidates listed as status 1A with inotropes increased by 193 a year, whereas the dobutamine, dopamine, and milrinone doses used decreased 49%, 55%, and 29% (P<0.001). The risk of waitlist death or deterioration of status 1A inotrope candidates relative to status 2 candidates decreased 62% for 2006 to 2010 and 70% for 2011 to 2015 compared with that for 2003 to 2006.

Conclusions: After the wider geographic sharing of hearts in 2006, transplant programs used multiple inotropes to list candidates at status 1A more frequently with progressively lower doses. Concurrently, the status 1A inotrope candidate waitlist outcomes improved substantially. These trends suggest that overtreatment with multiple inotropes contributes to the current critical excess of status 1A candidates.

Keywords: adult; dobutamine; ethics; heart; policy; transplantation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / surgery
  • Heart Transplantation / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Registries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / trends*
  • Transplant Recipients*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Waiting Lists / mortality*


  • Cardiotonic Agents