Adult heart transplantation under tacrolimus (FK506) immunosuppression: Histopathologic observations and comparison to a cyclosporine-based regimen with lympholytic (ATG) induction

A. C. Tsamandas, S. M. Pham, E. C. Seaberg, O. Pappo, R. L. Kormos, A. Kawai, B. P. Griffith, A. Zeevi, R. Duquesnoy, J. J. Fung, T. E. Starzl, A. J. Demetris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Tacrolimus (FK506) is an effective immunosuppressant for human heart transplantation, but information about its effects on cardiac allograft and nonallograft kidney and liver histopathologic study is limited. Methods: We therefore reviewed 1145 endomyocardial biopsy specimens and eight autopsy results from 80 heart transplant recipients who received tacrolimus as baseline immunosuppression. These were compared with 619 endomyocardial biopsy specimens and four autopsy results from 51 patients treated with cyclosporine-based immunosuppression with lympholytic induction (CLI) by use of rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin. Twenty-one histologic features including the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation histopathologic grade were retrospectively assessed without knowledge of the treatment regimen. The lymphocyte growth index on biopsy specimens obtained from these patients was also compared. Results: In general, there were no qualitative differences in the histopathologic appearance of various allograft syndromes between tacrolimus- and CLI-treated patients. Thus histopathologic criteria used to diagnose various graft syndromes are applicable under tacrolimus immunosuppression. However, early (between 10 and 30 days) after transplantation, biopsy specimens from patients treated with tacrolimus showed a significantly higher percentage of inflamed fragments (p = 0.02), the inflammation tended to be more severe (p = 0.09), and the rejection grade tended to be slightly higher (p = 0.08). In contrast, during the late transplantation period (275 to 548 days), biopsy specimens from patients treated with CLI showed a significantly higher percentage of inflamed fragments (p = 0.03), more severe inflammation (p = 0.03), higher rejection grades (p = 0.01), and a higher frequency of Quilty lesions (p = 0.05). Although overall freedom from any grade 3A or higher rejection was greater in the CLI-treated arm, tacrolimus was successfully used to treat refractory rejection in three patients from the CLI-treated arm. Concern has been raised in the literature about the possibility of tacrolimus being a direct hepatotoxin and an accelerant of allograft obliterative arteriopathy. However, no evidence to support either of these contentions was detected in this patient population. In contrast, tacrolimus is clearly nephrotoxic, although similar to cyclosporine in this regard. Conclusions: Tacrolimus is an effective immunosuppressive drug for heart transplantation. The cardiac allograft histopathologic study of patients treated with tacrolimus immunosuppression does not significantly differ from those given conventional, cyclosporine-based triple therapy with lympholytic induction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-734
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Volume16
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 12 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Transplantation

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