Evolution of cardiovascular risk after liver transplantation: A comparison of cyclosporine A and tacrolimus (FK506)



The development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular complications is a common and serious problem for the long-term survivors of organ transplantation. Cyclosporine A plus steroid-based immunosuppression regimens in these patients are associated with the development of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and diabetes mellitus. Whether the new immunosuppressive agent tacrolimus (FK506) confers any advantage in terms of these cardiovascular risk factors has been less well studied. We compared serial changes in blood pressure, lipids, body weight, and glucose levels during the first 12 months after liver transplantation in patients using either cyclosporine A (n = 39) or tacrolimus (n = 24)-based immunosuppression. By 12 months, the prevalence of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity was increased in the cyclosporine A group compared to tacrolimus: 82% versus 33%, 33% versus 0%, and 46% versus 29%, respectively (all p < .05). Triglyceride and total cholesterol levels were 196 +/- 23 versus 125 +/- 13 mg/dL and 225 +/- 9 versus 159 +/- 7 mg/dL for the cyclosporine A versus tacrolimus groups, respectively (p < .05). Cumulative posttransplant steroid dose was not related to the observed lipid changes in either group, although the increase in triglycerides was positively correlated to weight gain and diuretic use in the cyclosporine A group. The incidence of diabetes mellitus was not increased from baseline in either group. These results indicate that tacrolimus, compared to cyclosporine A, is associated with a less adverse cardiovascular risk profile in the first year after liver transplantation. Whether these differences persist and become clinically relevant to a liver transplant recipient population that is increasingly older and has more preexisting cardiovascular disease remains to be determined.