Patients who are bridged-to-transplantation with mechanical support have a high incidence of pretransplant sensitization defined by panel reactive antibody (PRA) titers greater than 10. Risk factors for positive PRA in patients with assist devices were investigated. From 1993 to 1997, 17 patients underwent implant surgery with CardioWest C-70 total artificial hearts (TAHs; CardioWest Technologies, Inc., Tucson, AZ), and 13 with Novacor left ventricular assist systems (LVASs; Baxter Healthcare, Novacor Division, Oakland, CA) for bridge-to-transplantation at this institution. Two patients died during implantation of the assist devices. Of the remaining 28 patients, four (14%) were women (3 with TAHs and 1 with an LVAS). All four women (100%) had a positive PRA, whereas only two of the 24 men (8%) had positive PRA (p < 0.0001). The transfusion histories of these patients were reviewed. Using chi-squared analysis (α = 0.05), the PRA levels were independent of transfusion of packed red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma. There was an association, however, between platelet transfusions and PRA levels. The times on device awaiting cardiac transplantation were also compared between the PRA positive and PRA negative groups. The average time to transplantation for PRA positive patients was 116 days, whereas the average waiting time for the PRA negative patients was 55 days (p = 0.05). Based on these data, a female patient with consistently positive PRA (93%) after TAH implantation underwent a transplant on post implant day 25 despite a positive lymphocytotoxic crossmatch with the donor. She was treated with plasmapheresis during cardiopulmonary bypass at the time of transplantation, and with four further treatments post transplant. As of this writing, she is alive and well on our standard triple immunotherapy. Therefore, women who are bridged-to-transplantation with assist devices are at risk for positive PRA. It is recommended that patients who are bridged-to-transplantation with assist devices and have high PRA levels be treated with perioperative plasmapheresis. With this aggressive approach, it may no longer be necessary to keep patients on mechanical support for prolonged periods, but possible to perform transplants as soon as suitable donors become available.
Copyright © 1998 by the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs