Management of the patient after heart transplant
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Cardiac transplantation is a highly effective therapy for selected patients with end-stage cardiac disease. The management of the patient after heart transplant involves three main strategies: optimization of immunosuppressive therapy, prevention of complications resulting from the transplant or the immunosuppressive agents, and treatment of those complications when they arise. For most patients, optimal current immunosuppression in the first year after transplantation consists of combination therapy with a calcineurin inhibitor (eg, cyclosporine or tacrolimus), corticosteroids, and an antimetabolite agent (eg, azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil). Ideally, the corticosteroid is weaned and discontinued 1 to 2 years following transplantation and the patient is managed chronically with a two-drug immunosuppressive regimen. The major complications that occur following cardiac transplantation include infection, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, osteoporosis, graft coronary disease, renal insufficiency, and malignancy. Preventive efforts focused on infection, osteoporosis, renal insufficiency, and malignancy include minimization of immunosuppression. Once established, treatment of any of the above conditions generally relies on standard pharmacologic therapies; however, an understanding of potential drug interactions is critical. In addition, although standard nonpharmacologic therapies may be used to treat several of these conditions, one must be cognizant of special issues related to the post-transplant state.
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