ABO-incompatible heart transplantation: Analysis of the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study (PHTS) database

Heather T. Henderson, Charles E. Canter, William T. Mahle, Anne I. Dipchand, Kelci Laporte, Kenneth B. Schechtman, Jie Zheng, Alfred Asante-Korang, Rakesh K. Singh, Kirk R. Kanter

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Background: ABO incompatible (ABOi) heart transplantation is an accepted approach to increasing organ availability for young patients. Previous studies have suggested that early survival for ABOi transplants is similar to ABO compatible (ABOc) transplants. We analyzed the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study (PHTS) database from 1/96 to 12/08 to further assess this strategy. Methods: We analyzed the numbers of ABOi and ABOc done at the PHTS centers. We then compared the clinical characteristics, and short-term freedom from death, rejection and infection in the ABOi patients with the patients that had an ABOc heart transplant during the same period. All patients were less than or equal to 15 months of age at listing (the age of the oldest ABOi patient). We adjusted for co-variates shown to increase risk for mortality (age less than 1 month, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), ventilator, previous sternotomy, and congenital heart disease). Results: There were 931 total transplants done at 34 PHTS centers during the 12 year time period in patients ≤15 months of age. Of these, 502 transplants were performed at 20 PHTS centers that did at least one ABOi heart transplant. Eighty-five of the 502 (17%) were ABOi. At time of transplant, ABOi recipients compared with ABOc were more likely to be on a ventilator (49.4% vs 36.5%, p=0.025), and more often supported with ECMO (23.5% vs 13.4%, p=0.018). There was similar survival at 12 months (82% vs 84%, p=0.7). In risk adjusted analysis ABOi status was not associated with 1 year mortality (HR 0.85, 95% CI 0.451.6, p=0.61). The ABOi patients had greater freedom from rejection when compared with ABOc patients for all 34 centers (75% vs 62%, p=0.016), but the difference was not significant when limited only to the 20 centers doing ABOi transplants (75% vs 69%, p=0.4). The ABOi cohort had lower infection rates (23.5% vs 37.9%, p = 0.013). This difference remained after adjusting for center and other covariates. Conclusions: In center and risk adjusted analysis, young children who received an ABOi transplant had equivalent one-year survival and freedom from rejection compared with those who received an ABOc transplant. In spite of the favorable outcome for ABOi recipients, many centers appear to reserve ABOi transplantation for sicker patients. These data mandate reexamination of the current United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) policy that gives priority to ABOc over ABOi transplantation in the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-179
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • ABO incompatible
  • infection
  • outcomes
  • pediatric heart transplant
  • rejection
  • survival


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