Restrictive criteria for heart transplantation candidacy maximize survival of patients with advanced heart failure

M. Frigerio, E. G. Gronda, M. Mangiavacchi, B. Andreuzzi, T. Colombo, C. De Vita, F. Oliva, E. Quaini, A. Pellegrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The shortage of organ donors and the amelioration of medical management of advanced heart failure mandate strict selection of heart transplant candidates on the basis of the need and probability of success of transplantation, with the aim of maximizing survival of patients with advanced heart failure, both with and without transplantation. This study analyzes the impact of restricting the criteria for heart transplantation candidacy on the outcome of patients with advanced heart failure referred for transplantation. Methods: Survival and freedom from major cardiac events (death, resuscitated cardiac arrest, transplantation while supported with inotropes or mechanical devices) were compared between patients listed during 1990 to 1991, when standard criteria were applied (group 1, n = 118), and patients listed during 1993 to 1994, when only patients requiring countinuous/recurrent intravenous inotrope therapy in spite of optimized oral medications and outpatients showing actual progression of the disease were admitted to the waiting list (group 2, n = 88). Survival and freedom from cardiac events (defined as above plus listing in urgent status) were also calculated in stable outpatients evaluated in 1993 to 1994, who were potential heart transplant candidates according to standard criteria but were not listed because of restrictive criteria (group 3, n = 52, New York Heart Association functional class ≤III, mean echocardiographic ejection fraction 0.22 ± 0.05, mean peak oxygen consumption 12.3 ± 1.5 ml/kg/min, mean follow-up 19 ± 10 months). Results: Thirty-one percent, 40%, and 50% of group 1 patients versus 58%, 65%, and 77% of group 2 patients underwent transplantation within 3, 6, and 12 months after listing (p <0.0007). The 1- and 2-year survival rates after listing were 80% and 71% in group 1 versus 85% and 84% in group 2 (p <0.0001). Freedom from death/urgent transplantation was lower in group 2 than in group 1 (55% and 48% versus 72% and 59% at 6 and 12 months, respectively; p <0.0001). In patients undergoing transplantation, the postoperative survival rate was similar (87% and 91% at 2 years in group 1 and group 2, respectively). Two years after heart transplantation candidacy was denied, 86% of group 3 patients were alive, and 74% were event-free. Conclusions: Restricting the admissions to the waiting list to patients with refractory/progressive heart failure improved survival rates after listing by increasing the probability to undergo transplantation in a short time. Selection of most severely ill candidates did not affect postoperative survival. Survival and freedom from cardiac events were good in patients with advanced but stable heart failure, in spite of their severe functional limitation. Thus restrictive criteria for heart transplantation candidacy allows maximal survival benefit from both medical therapy and transplantation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Transplantation


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