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Keywords:

  • Heart donors;
  • hepatitis C

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be transmitted to heart transplant recipients by donor organs. Mid-term results were reported using HCV-positive donors in patients at risk of imminent death (group I, n = 10), or in patients who otherwise would not have been offered heart transplantation (group II, n = 10) because of age (9/10) or associated medical risk (1/10). Medical records pertaining to patients receiving HCV-positive allografts between July 1994 and December 1999 were reviewed. The recipients consisted of 19 males and one female, with a median age of 54 years for group I and 66 for group II. The HCV RNA level, seroconversion of anti-HCV antibody, biochemical liver dysfunction, and causes of death were examined. Older recipients received reduced immunosuppression. Two patients in group II were HCV positive and were also retransplants. The hospital mortality rate was 10% in group I and 20% in group II; both hepatitis C-positive recipients died postoperatively prior to discharge. All predischarge deaths were related to multi-system organ failure (MSOF). All 17 survivors were HCV negative prior to transplant. Of these, 4/17 seroconverted. HCV RNA was detected in two of them. At a median follow-up of 26.4 months, 2/11 current survivors continue to test anti-HCV positive and are RNA negative. Three-year actual survival was 40% for group I and 70% in group II. Transplant coronary artery disease (TCAD) accounted for one postoperative death in group I. Current data show that four out of 11 survivors had developed TCAD at 3-year follow-up, yielding an actual freedom from TCAD rate of 12/17 (70%) at 3-year follow-up. Hepatitis C transmission using a donor heart as the reservoir is moderate (25%). Limited use of such donors is justified in selected patients. The risk for hepatic disease may be reduced by tailoring immunosuppression specifically for such recipients, particularly if they are at low risk of rejection. Further studies are necessary to define a possible association between HCV and TCAD.