Acute vascular rejection of the coronary arteries in human heart transplantation: Pathology and correlations with immunosuppression and cytomegalovirus infection

S. J. Normann, D. R. Salomon, P. Leelachaikul, S. R. Khan, E. D. Staples, J. A. Alexander, W. R. Mayfield, D. G. Knauf, L. A. Sadler, S. Selman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Prior studies of vascular rejection in transplanted human hearts have stressed the importance of accelerated coronary arteriosclerosis (chronic vascular rejection). We, however, have had four patients with sudden onset of acute heart failure within 90 days of transplantation who have died without significant myocardial interstitial rejection or the concentric intimal thickening with dense collagen that is typical of chronic vascular rejection. In contrast, the coronary arteries in our patients had a prominent lymphocytic infiltrate, a loosely organized intimal thickening composed of smooth muscle cells, and extensive endothelial injury. We believe that these changes define acute vascular rejection of the coronary artery. In 14 transplanted hearts obtained consecutively, at autopsy or at a second transplant procedure, graft failure was caused by acute coronary vascular rejection in six cases and by chronic coronary vascular rejection in one case. The remaining seven patients showed no evidence of vascular rejection and died primarily of sepsis. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease was present in 6 of 7 patients with vascular rejection, of which 43% were CMV-negative recipients of hearts from CMV-positive donors. The adoption of a triple-drug protocol, in which azathioprine was added to cyclosporine and prednisone, reduced the incidence of acute vascular rejection from 27% to 8%. We conclude that acute coronary vascular rejection may be initially seen as global cardiac ischemia in the absence of significant interstitial myocardial rejection. Further, acute vascular rejection should be pathologically distinguished from chronic vascular rejection, although both are probably stages in the natural history of immune-mediated vascular injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-687
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Volume10
Issue number5 I
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Transplantation

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