• Biopsy;
  • immunology;
  • rejection;
  • risk factors;
  • transplantation

We studied 361 patients, to evaluate risk factors for cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) onset and severity/diffusion in heart transplantation (HT). Rejection scores (RS) on endomyocardial biopsy were calculated (first year and whole follow-up). CAV onset was defined as any lesion seen at yearly angiography. A CAV severity/diffusion index was calculated for each patient summing up the scores of all lesions. Cox multivariate analysis included: donor age, sex, and weight; recipient sex, age, pre-HT diagnosis, hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia post-HT; number of treated rejections and RS; and immunosuppressive dosage at 3, 6, and 12 months. CAV frequency was 2% at 1 year, 22% at 5 and 39% at 10 years. Risk factors for CAV onset were older donor age [p < 0.0001, relative risk (RR) = 9.9], male donor (p < 0.001, RR = 3.2), high RS for severe (≥ 3A) grades (p < 0.02, RR = 2.01), high cyclosporine at 3 months (p < 0.02, RR = 1.9). Risk factors for CAV severity/diffusion were higher donor weight (p < 0.01, RR = 7.5), high prednisone dosage at 1 year (p < 0.0001, RR = 21.1), and coronary disease pre-HT (p < 0.002, RR = 9.7). High RS was an independent predictor for CAV onset, not severity/diffusion. This suggests an immune basis for CAV onset and nonimmune modulation for progression. High RS for severe grades may provide a predictor for patients at risk.