Safety of Right and Left Ventricular Endomyocardial Biopsy in Heart Transplantation and Cardiomyopathy Patients

JACC Heart Fail. 2022 Dec;10(12):963-973. doi: 10.1016/j.jchf.2022.08.005. Epub 2022 Oct 12.


Background: Endomyocardial biopsy (EMB) facilitates a histopathologic diagnosis with unique prognostic and therapeutic implications in both native and donor hearts. It is a relatively safe procedure, with an overall complication rate ranging from <1% to 6% depending on the experience of the operator, the clinical status of the patient, the presence or absence of left bundle branch block, the access site, and the site of procurement (right ventricular [RV] vs left ventricular [LV] approach).

Objectives: This study aimed to assess the incidence of procedure-related complications in a real-world population. EMBs were performed either for surveillance of rejection episodes after heart transplantation or for diagnosis of etiology of cardiomyopathy.

Methods: The authors retrospectively analyzed 1,368 biopsies obtained in 561 consecutive patients between May 2011 and May 2021. Patients were stratified according to the underlying heart disease, sex, age, access site, body mass index, and RV vs LV approach.

Results: The analysis revealed an overall complication rate of 4.1%. Serious life-threatening cardiac complications occurred in <1% of EMBs, with tamponade necessitating pericardiocentesis in 0.2% and urgent cardiac surgery in 0.1% of the procedures. Minor complications occurred in 3.3% of the overall population and were more often encountered during LV EMBs (3.9%) and when the native heart was sampled (5.3%).

Conclusions: In experienced hands, LV and RV EMB for heart transplantation rejection surveillance and cardiomyopathy diagnosis is a safe procedure with low risk of complications. Older, female patients and those undergoing native heart EMB were more prone to complications following EMB.

Keywords: bleeding; complications; major; minor; tamponade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy / adverse effects
  • Cardiomyopathies*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases*
  • Heart Failure*
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tissue Donors