Background: Despite the increasing application of cardiac transplantation in infants, reported survival rates vary, and risk factors for death are poorly understood.
Methods and results: To examine early survival and risk factors for death in infants (< 1 year of age) undergoing cardiac transplantation, 141 infants (36 < 1 months of age) underwent primary cardiac transplantation between January 1, 1993, and January 1, 1995, at 23 centers in the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study (PHTS). Diagnoses were hypoplastic left heart syndrome (66%), other congenital heart disease (17%), cardiomyopathy (14%), and other (3%). Actuarial survival after cardiac transplantation was 84% at 1 month, 70% at 1 year, and 69% at 2 years, with the greatest hazard for death within the first 3 months. The principal cause of death was early graft failure in 20 patients (52% of deaths), infection in 10 (26% of deaths), and rejection in 4 (10%). On the basis of multivariate analysis, risk factors for early mortality were history of previous sternotomy (P = .0003), nonidentical blood type donor (P = .01), recipient non-blood group A (P = .02), and donor cause of death other than closed head trauma (P = .04). Diagnosis at listing, waiting time (mean, 1.3 months), graft ischemic time (mean, 228 minutes; range, 68 to 479 minutes), and recipient ventilatory or inotropic support at listing were not predictive for mortality after transplant.
Conclusions: The higher mortality rate observed with infant heart transplantation is due to a higher mortality within the first month after transplantation as a result of early graft failure. Strategies to improve donor heart function at implantation would have the greatest impact on survival after infant cardiac transplantation.