Ann Thorac Surg 1995;60:372-376
© 1995 The Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Department of Surgery, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Accepted for publication March 28, 1995.
* Address reprint requests to Dr Carrier, Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Belanger St, Montreal, Que, H1T 1C8, Canada.
Background.: The treatment of severe or persistent acute rejection remains difficult despite newer immunosuppressive agents available.
Methods.: To evaluate the effectiveness of rabbit antithymocyte globulin and methotrexate as therapy for severe or persistent acute cardiac allograft rejection, we conducted a retrospective analysis of clinical and laboratory data from 150 consecutive heart transplant recipients between 1983 and 1994.
Results.: Thirteen episodes of severe or refractory acute rejection were treated with rabbit antithymocyte globulin in 10 patients. Rabbit antithymocyte globulin (125 mg/day for 3 consecutive days) was effective in 90% of patients. Therapy was well tolerated, and contributed to one infectious complication, no malignancy, and long-term survival in 8 of 10 patients. Recurrent rejection developed in 60% of patients. Methotrexate (7.5 to 15 mg/wk for 16 weeks) was administered to 8 patients with persistent rejection documented on three consecutive endomyocardial biopsies. Therapy was effective in 6 of the 8 patients, with one infectious complication and no malignancy on follow-up. White blood cell count decreased significantly during therapy (p = 0.008). Seven of the 8 patients in the methotrexate group are long-term survivors.
Conclusions.: Rabbit antithymocyte globulin is a valuable alternative in patients with severe or refractory acute rejection. Methotrexate is an important adjunct in patients with persistent rejection unresponsive to conventional immunosuppressive regimens.
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