Thirty-Year Trends in Graft Survival After Heart Transplant: Modeled Analyses of a Transplant Registry

Marlena E. Sabatino, Matthew L. Williams, Ike S. Okwuosa, Ehimare Akhabue, Jung Hyun Kim, Mark J. Russo, Soko Setoguchi

Publication Date: 09/01/2021

Background: Heart failure is an epidemic in the United States, and transplantation remains the most definitive therapy. We describe multidecade trends in posttransplant graft survival, adjusted for concurrent changes in the population, over the 30 years antecedent to the most recent heart allocation policy change. Methods: Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients data were used to identify all primary adult heart recipients from 1989 to 2017. We described temporal changes in population characteristics (recipient and donor demographics and comorbidities, pretransplant interventions, clinical transplant measures, and providers). The primary outcome was graft survival, defined as freedom from all-cause death and graft failure, within 6 months posttransplant. Modified Poisson logistic regression estimated relative changes in risk of outcomes compared with 1989, with and without adjustment for changing population characteristics. We identified risk factors, quantified by associated risk ratios. Results: Among 56,488 primary adult heart recipients, we observed 5529 (9.8%) all-cause deaths and 1933 (3.4%) graft failure events within 6 months posttransplant. Prevalence of known recipient risk factors increased over time. Unadjusted modeling demonstrated a significant 30-year improvement in graft survival, averaging 2.6% per year (95% confidence interval, 2.4-2.9; P for trend <.001). After adjusting for population changes the 30-year trend remained significant and graft survival improved on average 3.0% per year (95% confidence interval, 2.6-3.3). Regression modeling identified multiple predictors of graft survival. Modeling 2 additional outcomes of 6-month mortality and 6-month graft failure produced similar results. Conclusions: Short-term graft survival after heart transplantation has improved significantly leading up to the 2018 heart allocation policy change, despite concurrent increase in prevalence of higher risk population characteristics.