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Increased fibrosis and microvessel disease in allograft endomyocardial biopsies of children with chronic graft failure due to cardiac allograft vasculopathy.

INTRODUCTION: Chronic graft failure (CGF) is the leading cause of mortality in pediatric heart transplant (PHT) patients and has multifactorial pathogenesis including cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV). CGF can present with microvessel disease (MVD) and myocardial fibrosis on endomyocardial biopsies (EMB). We investigated if CGF due to moderate- severe (M-S) CAV has histopathologic MVD and fibrosis prior to or at the time of CAV diagnosis.

METHOD: This retrospective case-control study included PHT with CGF secondary to M-S CAV. Control patients had no CAV or CGF. EMBs from CAV (3 sets: at one-year post-transplant 1yrCAV, pre-CAV, and at the time of CAV diagnosis) and non-CAV cohorts were reviewed to grade the fibrosis and quantify MVD. Histopathologic changes were correlated and compared between CAV/non-CAV groups.

RESULTS: Each group had 8 patients. The median age at transplantation and time since transplant were similar between the two groups (p=0.71 and p=0.91, respectively). Fibrosis grade was 3.0 for CAV cohort compared to 1.0 for control (p= 0.003) and MVD score was 2.1 in CAV and 0.5 in non-CAV patients (p= 0.003). Similar degrees of fibrosis and MVD were present even before any evidence of CAV (1yrCAV fibrosis grade 2.5, pre-CAV fibrosis grade 2; 1yrCAV vs CAV p=0.75, pre-CAV vs CAV p=0.63; 1yrCAV MVD score 2, pre-CAV MVD score 2; 1yrCAV vs CAV p=1, pre-CAV vs CAV p=0.91). The degree of MVD correlated with fibrosis (r=0.63, p<0.0001) for all EMBs.

CONCLUSION: Simultaneous myocardial fibrosis and MVD are noted in CGF secondary to M-S CAV, changes that occur before angiographic CAV. EMBs can reveal significant changes in patients with subsequent development of CAV and may be used to modify the follow-up and treatment for these high-risk patients.

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