Background: In Rotterdam 304 heart transplants have been performed since 1984. End-stage renal failure, necessitating renal replacement therapy, has developed in 24 patients (8%) after an interval of 25-121 months (median 79 months). After starting renal replacement therapy one-year survival was only 60%. Overall survival after heart transplantation, however, was favourable: 5 and 10 year survival rates of 79% and 50% respectively.
Methods: A case-control study was performed to identify possible risk factors in cases who went on to develop end-stage renal failure compared to controls.
Results: We found that renal failure was not limited to elderly patients with ischaemic heart disease, but also occurred in young patients having dilated cardiomyopathy. A significant rise in the serum creatinine was found in cases compared to controls as early as 3 months after transplantation. Cyclosporin dose and trough levels were not different between cases and controls. Neither were there differences in the use of calcium-antagonists or other antihypertensive drugs, allopurinol or diuretics. Rejection incidence was also similar between the two groups.
Conclusions: Renal failure after heart transplantation is a long term complication of cyclosporin use that is not limited to elderly patients with ischaemic heart disease. Cyclosporin dose and trough levels in the cases were not different from patients maintaining stable good renal function, indicating that cyclosporin nephrotoxicity is the result of an individually determined susceptibility to cyclosporin. Suggestions for future strategies to prevent renal failure are given.