Background: Detailed information regarding the spectrum and predictors of infection after heart transplantation in children is limited because of relatively small numbers of patients at any single institution. We therefore used combined data obtained from the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study Group to gain additional information regarding infectious complications in the pediatric population.
Methods: To determine the time-related risk of infection and death related to infection in a large pediatric patient population, we analyzed data related to 332 pediatric patients (undergoing heart transplantation between January 1, 1993, and December 31, 1994) from 22 institutions in the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study Group.
Results: Among the 332 total patients, 276 infections were identified in 136 patients. Of those patients with development of infection, a single infection episode was reported in 54% of patients, 21% had two infections, and 25% had three or more infections. Of the 276 infections, 164 (60%) were bacterial, 51 (18%) were due to cytomegalovirus, 35 (13%) were other viral (noncytomegalovirus) infections, 19 (7%) were fungal, and 7 (2%) were protozoal. Bacterial infections were more common in infants younger than 6 months of age at time of transplantation, comprising 73% of all infections as compared with 49% in patients older than 6 months of age. The incidence of bacterial infection peaked during the first month after transplantation, with the actuarial likelihood of a bacterial infection among all patients reaching 25% at 2 months. The most common sites of bacterial infection were blood and lung (74% of bacterial infections). Cytomegalovirus accounted for 59% of viral infections, with a peak hazard occurring at 2 months after transplantation. Among all infections, cytomegalovirus was less common in infants younger than 6 months of age (8% of all infections) than in older patients (25%). By multivariate analysis, risk factors for early infection included younger recipient age (p = 0.05), mechanical ventilation at time of transplantation (p = 0.0002), positive donor cytomegalovirus serologic study result with negative recipient result (p = 0.004), and longer donor ischemic time (p = 0.04). The overall mortality rate from infection was 5%, with an actuarial freedom from death related to infection of 92% at 1 year after transplantation. The mortality rate was high in patients with fungal infections (52%), yet was low for those with cytomegalovirus infection (6%). Infections accounted for 27% of the overall mortality rate in infants younger than 6 months of age, compared with 16% for older patients.
Conclusions: Although most infections in pediatric heart transplant recipients are successfully treated, infection remains an important cause of posttransplantation morbidity and death, especially in infants. Bacterial infections predominate within the first month after transplantation, whereas the peak hazard for viral infections occurs approximately 2 months after transplantation. Cytomegalovirus infections are common in the pediatric transplant population, but death related to cytomegalovirus is low.