Association of human leukocyte antigen donor-recipient matching and pediatric heart transplant graft survival

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Background—The effect of donor-recipient human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matching on outcomes remains relatively unexplored in pediatric patients. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of donor-recipient HLA matching on graft survival in pediatric heart transplantation. Methods and Results—The UNOS database was queried for heart transplants occurring between October 31, 1987 to December 31, 2012 in a recipient aged ≤ 17 with at least one postoperative follow-up visit. Retransplants were excluded. Transplants were divided into 3 donor-recipient matching groups: no HLA matches (HLA-no), 1 or 2 HLA matches (HLA-low), and 3-6 HLA matches (HLA-high). Primary outcome was graft loss. 4471 heart transplants met study inclusion criteria. High degree of donor-recipient HLA matching occurred infrequently; (HLA-high n=269 (6 %) v. HLA-low n=2683 (60%) v. HLA-no n=1495 (34%). There were no differences between HLA matching groups in frequency of coronary vasculopathy (p=0.19) or rejection in the first post-transplant year (p=0.76). Improved graft survival was associated with a greater degree of HLA donor-recipient matching: HLA-high median survival 17.1yrs (14.0-20.2yrs, 95%CI), HLA-low median survival 14.2yrs (13.1-15.4), and HLA-no median survival 12.1yrs (10.9-13.3), p<0.01 log rank test. In Cox-regression analysis, HLA matching was independently associated with decreased graft loss [HLA-low v. HLA-no HR 0.86 (0.74-0.99, 95%CI), p=0.04; HLA-high v. HLA-no 0.62 (0.43-0.90, 95%CI), p<0.01]. Conclusions—Decreased graft loss in pediatric heart transplantation was associated with a higher degree of donor-recipient HLA matching, although a difference in the frequency of early rejection or development of coronary artery vasculopathy was not seen.