Sudden cardiac death in cardiac transplant recipients

Vijay S. Patel, Marcy Lim, Edward K. Massin, Gerald P. Jonsyn, Pinar Ates, Nancy L. Abou-Awdi, Hugh A. McAllister, Branislav Radovancevic, O. H. Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Sudden cardiac death (SCD) remains a significant cause of mortality in the general population. Its role in cardiac transplant patients including its incidence, mechanism, potential risk factors, or influence on survival in this patient population has not been well described. Methods and Results: We undertook a retrospective analysis of the clinical and autopsy records of 257 patient deaths. SCD was analyzed in relation to severity and frequency of rejection episodes, clinical history of arrhythmias, coronary artery disease (CAD), hypertension, diabetes, left ventricular dysfunction, and clinical history of premorbid symptoms. A total of 25 patients were identified as having died of SCD, an incidence of 9.7%; 20% died ≤12 months after transplantation, 80% died after > 12 months, and 20% died after ≤60 months. Patient survival ranged from 2.5 to 138 months (mean, 45.7 months). The mean number of rejection episodes per patient was 2.6, most occurring within 12 months alter transplantation. Echocardiography or multigated acquisition scan revealed an ejection fraction (EF) ≤50% in 68% of patients; however, the presence of arrhythmias, primarily atrial, was evident in 68% of patients and was equally distributed between patients with EFs ≤50% and EFs <50%. CAD was present in 53% of patients (10 of 19) whose angiograms were available, and the appearance of CAD after transplantation was between 29 and 85 months (mean, 51.4 months). Of the 9 patients with normal cardiac catheterization studies, 6 with available autopsy reports had documented CAD. Autopsy data in 13 of 25 patients revealed CAD in 92% and rejection in 15% (International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation grade >3A). Of the deaths, 64% occurred within 3 months of the last endomyocardial biopsy, 96% had normal biopsies, and the only rejection was without hemodynamic compromise. Conclusions: SCD occurs relatively frequently in the cardiac transplant population, and CAD is present in most of the patients. Because the frequency of arrhythmias is relatively high in this group, more aggressive antiarrhythmic therapy may be beneficial for patients with allograft CAD in the prevention of SCD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)II273-II277
Issue number9 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Nov 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • arrhythmia
  • coronary disease
  • death, sudden
  • transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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