Patients on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) often have a high level of panel-reactive antibodies (PRA). Conventional therapy is to await a heart from a negative prospective-crossmatch donor. We transplanted three high-PRA patients with non-crossmatched hearts, using intra- and post-operative plasmapheresis and long-term T-/B-/plasma-cell therapy with alemtuzumab. Three highly sensitized patients (70%, 94% and 96% T-PRA; 63%, 24% and 73% B-PRA) were transplanted after 29, 187 and 94 days LVAD support. The first patient (Case 1) had an erroneous prospective negative crossmatch (due to an outside laboratory's use of the wrong patient's serum) with immediate allograft dysfunction. The correct serum showed a strongly positive crossmatch; plasmapheresis followed by alemtuzumab (20 mg intravenously) shortly after arrival in the ICU resulted in rapid hemodynamic improvement. Encouraged by this success, the next two patients (Cases 2 and 3) underwent LVAD explant and heart transplant with the next available ABO-identical, non-crossmatched donors, using plasmapheresis on bypass immediately before heart implant and alemtuzumab 20 mg intravenously upon ICU arrival, with uneventful courses. All three patients had positive retrospective T- and B-cell crossmatches. Maintenance immunosuppression consisted of cyclosporine and routine prednisone taper, with plasmapheresis as needed (Patient 1, ×10; Patient 2, ×5) based on diastolic dysfunction. Mycophenolate mofetil was started as a third agent several months post-transplant. Patients are presently New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class I at 26, 16 and 13 months post-transplant. In this small series with follow-up, immediate antibody removal with plasmapheresis, combined with alemtuzumab, a long-acting antibody to CD52 (expressed on T, B and some plasma cells), appears effective in allowing transplantation in sensitized, positive crossmatch recipients. Expanded use of this strategy could shorten LVAD support in many sensitized patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine