Infections in heart transplant recipients: The experience of the Italian Heart Transplantation Program

P. Grossi, R. De Maria, A. Caroli, M. S. Zaina, L. Minoli

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Infectious complications are an important cause of morbidity and mortality in heart transplantation. In this report we describe their incidence in the Italian Heart Transplantation Program and their relationship to induction immunosuppressive protocols used. A total of 662 heart transplantations in 651 patients had been performed by March 1, 1990, in 10 Italian centers, with a follow-up of 12,022 patient-months. Actuarial survival at 54 months was 80%. There were 115 deaths, 28 as a result of infection (24%); 30 were perioperative. Mortality from infection was 15% in the first 30 postoperative days and 35% thereafter. During follow-up, 256 life-threatening infectious episodes occurred in 180 patients, for a mean of 1.42 infections/patient. Of these episodes, 28 (10.9%) were lethal. The rate at 54 months, excluding perioperative deaths, was 0.021 episodes/patient-month, with a mean of 0.39 infections/patient in the 651-patient series. At 6 months, 72% of patients were free from infection. This value did not change significantly during subsequent follow-up. Bacterial infections were most frequent (49.2%); fungal (10.5%) and protozoan (5.9%) infections had the worst outcome (lethality 26% and 20%, respectively). A primary cytomegalovirus infection was observed in 23 cases (12 mismatches). Lung involvement (99 episodes) and bacterial sepsis (47 episodes) were most common. Eighty episodes of infection (31.2%) were preceded by a supplementary treatment for rejection with steroid pulses (69%), prednisone boost (20%), or cytolytic therapy (11%). Treatment had preceded the infection by less than 15 days in 55% of cases. Freedom from infection, calculated from event-free curves, was significantly higher in immunosuppressive protocols without steroids versus those with steroids (p <0.001), without cytolytic therapy versus with cytolytic therapy (p <0.05), and in cyclosporine plus azathioprine protocols versus all other protocols (p <0.01).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-866
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Transplantation


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