Immediate causes of death in short-term surviving heart transplant recipients

Pietro Gallo, Lucio Agozzino, Eloisa Arbustini, Giovanni Bartoloni, Giorgio Baroldi, Edgardo Bonacina, Cesare Bosman, Gualtiero Catani, Cira di Gioia, Teresio Motta, Angela Pucci, Maurizio Rocco, Gaetano Thiene

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From 1985 to 1992, 1068 cardiac transplants have been performed in the Italian units. The immediate causes of death of 142 of the 148 orthotopic cardiac transplantation recipients who died within the first 6 postoperative months were surveyed. Deaths were grouped into three periods: perioperative (≤1 month, 68.3%), early (>1 ≤3 months, 23.2%), and advanced (>3 ≤6 months, 8.5%). Acute graft failure (arising from the ischemic damage to the donor heart, from surgical problems, from severe pulmonary hypertension, or from multiorgan failure) accounted for 49% of perioperative deaths and, along with noncardiac emergencies (23% of perioperative deaths), was significantly more frequent in this period than in the subsequent ones. The dissection of thoracic arteries was responsible for 4% of postoperative deaths, occurring exclusively among patients transplanted for ischemic or valvular heart disease. In the early and advanced periods, untreatable acute rejection (13%) and fatal infections (38%), mostly saprophytic, were significantly more frequent. Ischemic heart damage secondary to graft vasculopathy already caused 26% of deaths between the fourth and sixth months after transplantation. Some diseases, such as acute rejection, had the same frequency as both underlying disease and immediate cause of death. On the contrary, graft failure is more common as primary disease, leading to death also through noncardiac complications and saprophytic infections. Bacterial infections have the same frequency as both prime and immediate cause of death, viral infections are more common as primary disease, and the opposite is true for saprophytic infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-181
Number of pages9
JournalCardiovascular Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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