Objectives: This study sought to assess the clinical characteristics and survival of patients with symptomatic heart failure who were referred as potential heart transplant candidates, but were selected for medical management.
Background: Patients with severe left ventricular dysfunction referred for heart transplantation may be considered too well to be placed immediately on an active waiting transplant list. The clinical characteristics of this patient group and their survival have not been well defined. These patients represent a unique group that are characterized by comparatively low age and freedom from significant comorbid conditions.
Methods: We studied 116 consecutive patients with symptomatic heart failure, severe left ventricular dysfunction (left ventricular ejection fraction 20 +/- 7% [mean +/- SD]) and duration of symptoms >1 month referred for heart transplantation, who were acceptable candidates for the procedure but who were not listed for transplantation because of relative clinical stability. These patients were followed up closely on optimal medical therapy. A variety of baseline clinical, hemodynamic and exercise variables were assessed to define this patient group and used to predict cardiac death and requirement later for heart transplantation.
Results: During a mean follow-up period of 25.0 +/- 14.8 months (follow-up 99% complete), there were eight cardiac deaths (7%) (seven sudden, one acute myocardial infarction). Only nine patients (8%) were listed for heart transplantation. Actuarial 1- and 4-year cardiac survival rates were 98 +/- 1% and 84 +/- 7% (mean +/- SE), respectively, and freedom from listing for transplantation was 95 +/- 2% and 84 +/- 7% (mean +/- SE), respectively. Patients were mainly in New York Heart Association functional class II or III and had a preserved cardiac index (2.4 liters/min.m2), pulmonary capillary wedge pressure of 16 +/- 9 mm Hg (mean +/- SD) and maximal oxygen consumption of 17.4 +/- 4.3 ml/min per kg (mean +/- SD). By logistic regression analysis, there was no predictor for cardiac death. Longer duration of heart failure (p = 0.013) and mean pulmonary artery (p < 0.05) and pulmonary systolic (p = 0.014) and diastolic (p < 0.05) pressures correlated significantly with listing for heart transplantation by univariate logistic regression. By multivariate logistic regression, only pulmonary artery systolic pressure (p < 0.004) and duration of heart failure (p < 0.015) remained as predictors for need for later transplantation.
Conclusions: In the current treatment era, prognosis is favorable in a definable group of transplant candidates despite severe left ventricular dysfunction. This patient group can be identified after intensive medical therapy by stable symptoms, a relatively high maximal oxygen uptake at peak exercise and a preserved cardiac output.