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Effect of adopting a new histological grading system of acute rejection after heart transplantation
  1. Aggie H Balk,
  2. Pieter E Zondervan,
  3. Peter van der Meer,
  4. Teun van Gelder,
  5. Bas Mochtar,
  6. Maarten L Simoons,
  7. Willem Weimar
  1. Thoraxcenter, Departments of Pathology and Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Rotterdam-Dijkzigt, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  1. Dr Balk, Thoraxcenter Bd 377, University Hospital Rotterdam-Dijkzigt, Dr Molewaterplein 40, 3015 GD Rotterdam, Netherlands.


Background Treatment policy of acute rejection after heart transplantation has been changed after adopting the ISHLT endomyocardial biopsy grading system in 1991.

Objective To determine the effect of this policy change on clinical outcome after transplantation.

Methods The outcome of 147 patients who had a transplant before (early group, median follow up 96 months) and 114 patients who had a transplant after (late group, median follow up 41 months) the introduction of the ISHLT biopsy grading system was studied retrospectively. Initially “moderate rejection” according to Billingham’s conventional criteria was treated. From January 1991 grade 3A and higher was considered to require intensification of immunosuppression.

Results There were some differences between the two groups: recipients (50 v 44 years) as well as donors (28 v 24 years) were older in the “late group” and more patients of this group received early anti-T cell prophylaxis (92% v 56%). Despite more extensive use of early prophylaxis more rejection episodes were diagnosed (2.4 v1.4) and considerably more courses of rejection treatment were instituted in the late compared with the early group (3.2v 1.5). There were no deaths because of rejection in the late group, however, more infections occurred within the first year (mean 1.8 v 1.4) and more non-skin malignancies within the first 41 months were diagnosed (8 of 57 v 6 of 147, 95% CIs of difference includes 0). The incidence of graft vascular disease in the late group has been comparable to the early group until now.

Conclusion The interpretation of the ISHLT grading system resulted in lowering of the threshold for the diagnosis of rejection thereby increasing the number of rejections and subsequently the immunosuppressive load and its complications.

  • transplantation
  • biopsy grading system
  • rejection

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