TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of
babies and children who receive heart transplants are surviving
many years, say the authors of a new study.
Pediatric heart transplant patients are living 15 years and
longer with good heart function, the scientists said. They are
scheduled to present their findings Tuesday at the annual meeting
of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, held in Orlando, Fla.
Study author Dr. Hannah Copeland, a thoracic surgery fellow at
Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, and colleagues
analyzed data from 337 young patients who received heart
transplants between the ages of birth and 17 years.
All of the children underwent surgery at Loma Linda Children's
Hospital between 1985 and 1998. The researchers reported that 54
percent (183 of 337 patients) survived at least 15 years.
The news gives hope, Copeland said. "Children are surviving
transplant surgeries. More than half of the patients in our study
survived," she noted. "We're saying if your child needs a heart
transplant, they can live for a long period of time."
The average adult survival rate after a heart transplant is 10
years, Copeland said. "We looked at 15 years in children because
there are few studies on that many years out. We also wanted to
look at quality of life factors, as well," she said.
Of the 15-year survivors, 82.5 percent were alive and showed
good heart function at their most recent follow-up appointment,
A condition called "cardiac allograft vasculopathy" is the
biggest hurdle to long-term survival after a transplant, the
"Graft vasculopathy is a thickening of the blood vessels which makes the vessels themselves smaller and therefore it's harder to get oxygen and 'food' to the heart," said Elizabeth Blume, medical director of the pediatric heart transplant program at Boston Children's Hospital. Blume was not involved with the study.
Kidney failure is also a complication. The medications children
take to suppress their immune systems to prevent their bodies from
rejecting the new heart can be damaging to the kidneys. But study
author Copeland said kidney transplants, as well as second and
third heart transplants, and newer medications are also helping to
It's an "important" abstract, said Blume, who is also an
associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
"It does provide us with a lot of the data that we need," Blume said. "This is a large population of patients who are surviving far out, which I think provides important data for the field. On the other hand, there's a lot of re-transplanting needed, and a lot of kidney dysfunction, and it does challenge us to do better and to find ways to address the long-term issues."
Copeland noted that "many challenges still exist for long-term
survival in kids -- this isn't a cure."
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
Visit the heart transplant program at Boston Children's Hospital
to learn more about
heart transplantation in kids.
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