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Early invasive assessment of the coronary microcirculation predicts subsequent acute rejection after heart transplantation

Kozo Okada, Yasuhiro Honda, Helen Luikart, Paul G Yock, Peter J Fitzgerald, Alan C Yeung, Hannah A Valantine, Kiran K Khush, William F Fearon
International Journal of Cardiology 2019 April 8

BACKGROUND: Acute allograft rejection (AAR) plays an important role in patient and graft survival; therefore, more emphasis should be placed on its prediction. This study aimed to investigate baseline clinical and diagnostic variables associated with subsequent AAR during the first year post-transplant, especially focusing on early physiologic and anatomic measures.

METHODS: This study enrolled 88 heart transplant patients who underwent fractional flow reserve (FFR), coronary flow reserve (CFR), the index of microcirculatory resistance (IMR) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) in the left anterior descending artery at baseline (within 8 weeks post-transplant). Cardiac index (CI), pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP), mean pulmonary artery pressure (mPAP), right atrial pressure and left ventricular ejection fraction were also evaluated. AAR was defined as acute cellular rejection of grade ≥2R and/or pathological antibody-mediated rejection of grade ≥pAMR2.

RESULTS: During the first year post-transplant, 25.0% of patients experienced AAR. Patients with AAR during the first year showed higher rates of recipient obesity, lower rates of recipient-donor sex mismatch and rATG and tacrolimus uses, higher PCWP, mPAP and IMR, and lower CFR at baseline, compared with those without. In the multivariate analysis, only baseline IMR ≥ 16.0 was independently associated with AAR during the first year, demonstrating high negative predictive value (96.7%).

CONCLUSIONS: Invasively assessing microvascular resistance (baseline IMR ≥ 16.0) in the early post-transplant period was an independent determinant of subsequent acute allograft rejection during the first year post-transplant, suggesting that early assessment of IMR may enhance patient risk stratification and target medical therapies to improve patient outcome.


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