Young Heart Transplant Patients Can Survive Long Term

Pediatric heart transplant patients may have good chance of long term survival with regular monitoring

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Heart transplant surgery can be particularly challenging for children. Despite these challenges, it's becoming more common for young heart transplant patients to live a long life.

A recent study found that children who underwent a heart transplant were able to survive for more than 15 years after the surgery.

The researchers believe that regular, lifelong monitoring and medication can help pediatric heart transplant patients have good heart function and quality of life.

"Learn about the symptoms of graft versus host disease."

The lead author of this study was Hannah Copeland, MD, from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.

The study included 498 participants who had undergone a heart transplant before the age of 18 years old. Age of transplant ranged from 0 days to 17.5 years old, with the average age being 56 days old.

All participants had received their transplant at Loma Linda University between 1985 and the present day.

The findings showed that 183 of these patients lived for at least 15 years after the surgery.

Follow-up was conducted an average of 20 years after surgery.

Of the participants who lived for 15 years or more after surgery, 151 (83 percent) were still alive at the time of publication with an average ejection rate of 62 percent. This means that 62 percent of the blood in the left side of the heart is pushed out with each heartbeat.

Normal ejection rates for the average person range from 55 to 70 percent.

The researchers determined that the main barriers to long-term survival after a pediatric heart transplant were graft vasculopathy and kidney complications. Graft vasculopathy is a heart condition where the walls of the coronary arteries progressively thicken due to buildup.

Patients who develop graft vasculopathy often undergo another heart transplant, while patients with kidney failure or complications often undergo kidney transplantation to increase the chances of survival.

The findings revealed that 30 of the participants developed graft vasculopathy and had another heart transplant.

A total of 99 study participants had kidney failure or complications, 17 of whom received a kidney transplant.

“Our study demonstrates that pediatric heart transplant patients who live more than 15 years post-surgery can expect to have reasonable cardiac function and quality of life,” said Dr. Copeland.

According to Nieca Goldberg, MD, clinical associate professor, Department of Medicine, Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology, director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Womens Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, "The research is very promising. It shows us how much we have advanced in preventing rejection of heart transplants. Even more importantly it shows that we can have these young people live longer with a better quality of life.”

This study was presented on January 28 at the 50th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2014
Last Updated:
January 29, 2014